ISIL vows to demolish the pyramids and the sphinx amid wave of attacks on Egyptian forces
National Post Wire Services | July 3, 2015 4:40 PM ET
As tensions rise in Egypt, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is calling for the nation’s cultural icons, like the pyramids and the sphinx, to be destroyed.
ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly said destroying the monuments was a “religious duty.”
British Muslim political activist Anjem Choudary told the Telegraph: “When Egypt comes under the auspices of the Khalifa (Caliphate), there will be no more Pyramids, no more Sphinx, no more idolatry. This will be just.”
This week ISIL launched a wave of simultaneous attacks on Egyptian security forces. There were co-ordinated suicide attacks and ground assaults on the Egyptian military installations, which were eventually repelled with air support by Egypt’s F-16 fighter jets.But Kuwaiti Islamist preacher Ibrahim Al Kandari said the monuments were cultural, not religious, and should be destroyed. He called for the destruction of the monuments, saying just because early Muslims didn’t destroy them, “does not mean that we shouldn’t.”
“The fact that early Muslims who were among prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering Egypt does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now,” Al Kandari told the Egyptian Al-Watan daily earlier this year.
The pyramids and Sphinx are a massive part of Egypt’s tourism industry and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Meanwhile, ISIL militants are feared to have begun destruction of Syria’s Roman city of Palmyra, as the head of Unesco warned of “cultural cleansing” by the extremist group.
Maamoun Abdelkarim, the Syrian antiquities minister, said the militants had destroyed a 15-ton statue of a lion, known as the Lion of Al-Lat. ISIL seized Palmyra’s ruins from Syrian government control last month, prompting widespread fears that the group could destroy the Unesco world heritage site as an act of propaganda.
The jihadists have destroyed cultural treasures across the Middle East and North Africa, often describing the sites as idolatrous.Although Isil was reported to have mined sections of Palmyra last month, the ruins were thought to have been left undamaged, in an attempt to curry favour with local residents as it consolidated power in a nearby town.
On Thursday, ISIL posted photos of a civilian being forced to destroy what appeared to be priceless statues plucked from Palmyra’s ruins.
The accompanying text said the “contraband” artifacts were found in the possession of a lone smuggler. Irina Bokova, the head of the UN cultural agency Unesco, said on Tuesday that one fifth of Iraq’s estimated 10,000 official sites had been heavily looted under Isil control.
Some sites in Syria had been ransacked so badly that they no longer had any value for historians and archaeologists, she said, describing the damage as “cultural cleansing.”