I’m for once at a loss as to where to start this week. How can one begin to wrap one’s mind around the spread and aggression of the IS atrocities, with the mindless culmination with last Friday’s attacks in Paris and Beirut? This is the desired effect: one of terror and confusion. It is a heartening show of solidarity and resilience that after several days’ closure out of dual concerns for safety and indeed respect, Parisian museums reopened on the 17th November.
As Fleur Pellerin, French minister of culture declared, the role of culture is a “symbolic place of discovery … and exchange”. As well as the loss of life, we have long been hearing of historical artefacts of cultural significance destroyed around the world as part of a continuing search and destroy campaign to weaken by removing what civilisation holds dear. In fact, the term civilisation is key here: we are looking at a minority of individuals willing its demise for the sake of one extremely dangerous ideology. Where we rely on and understand the world through the secure system of having history properly recorded and referred to, mapping our development through evidence left along the way, IS is attempting to wipe it from existence, attacking specific targets.
IS continues to destroy select historic sites of importance throughout Syria and Iraq. Only in June this year we saw IS destroy two ancient Islamic tombs in Palmyra, a city it had recently seized: reports stated that IS militants planted landmines inside the 2000 year old World Heritage Site in Syria, declaring this particular strand of Islam – referring to Sufi and Shia holy places – as against their own beliefs. The brutality resulting from such militantly specific ideology, however questionable, is terrifying.
It has even been suggested by Michael Danti, the academic director of the SOR Syrian Heritage Initiative, a joint project between the US Department of State and the American Schools of Oriental Research, that IS is holding heritage hostage, using such sites as the Palmyra to raise collateral for its activities. My initial response against such news as this is regularly along the lines of “well at least the art still retains power and significance that resonates worldwide”, yet, depressingly, it can’t if it’s getting blown up one by one. We really are on the cusp of returning to the dark ages.
Photo: Via Twitter
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