The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has offered yet another show of force in the Middle East by bombing the historic Temple of Bel in the city of Palmyra inside Syria. This is merely the latest instance of the Islamic State destroying ancient historical sites during their reign of terror. As reported by CNN back in April of this year, the Islamic State has been on a rampage in Syria and Iraq for quite some time; destroying churches, temples, ancient tombs, and archaeological sites, as well as looting museums and destroying priceless historical artifacts.
As reported by The Washington Post just two days ago, the Temple of Bel was part of an archaeological site expanding through ancient ruins in the city of Palmyra. Islamic State militants released images showing the destruction of this treasured temple in Syria as shown in the video footage below.
The Islamic State, in their quest to enforce an Islamic caliphate throughout Iraq and Syria, has made it a priority mission to destroy anything that represents any culture other than Islam. Sites such as this Temple in Palmyra, and the many other artifacts and sites that have been destroyed by the Islamic State, are considered to be idolatrous by these Islamic State fundamentalists who adhere to a puritanical version of Islamic ideology.
The Islamic State has destroyed not only artifacts of ancient religions, but they also looted and destroyed icons of Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam itself. So far, the efforts of the Islamic State to eradicate all things that they consider to be idolatrous, heretical, or blasphemous have been very effective. Site after site have been destroyed by the militant Islamic State, and it seems that there is little opposition standing against them. However, many Muslims are appalled by the actions of the Islamic State and have called for action to stop the destruction being carried out by the Islamic State. Archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who is himself a Muslim, has called on world leaders to use military force to stop this destruction by the Islamic State.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, in a lecture at USC in March of this year, Hawass stated, “I receive emails all the time from young archaeologists in these countries, and they are afraid. We can’t wait, we can’t leave them to destroy our history.” This statement came after Islamic State militants sacked the Mosul Museum and destroyed entire rooms of artifacts. Since then, the Islamic State has continued unabated as they systematically destroy the culture and heritage of the entire region.
While the destruction of these artifacts by the Islamic State is very tragic, they pale in comparison to the lives taken by Islamic State militants. Just days before destroying the Temple of Bel, Islamic State militants murdered the head of Palmyra’s antiquities department, Khaled al-Asaad. Asaad had been held captive by Islamic State militants for more than a month as he was interrogated by the Islamic State members who were trying to discover the location of hidden antiquities. Asaad refused to give up this information to the Islamic State and was finally beheaded. ISIS then had his mutilated corpse hung in the square of the city to further terrorize the population and discourage resistance. Asaad and this ancient historical site are just the latest victims of the unchallenged terror offered by the Islamic State.