Why did ISIS blow up the mosque in Mosul?

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tags: Mosul, ISIS, Great Mosque of al Nuri



Kishwar Rizvi is an Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Yale University. She is the author of "The Transnational Mosque: Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East." The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

Muslims consider mosques to be the houses of God, the bayt Allah. They are places of worship, sanctuaries, and where Muslim communities come together. The first mosque, which was a modest structure built in 622 in Medina, was the house of the Prophet Mohammed.

Soon after his faith gained political legitimacy, mosques were built wherever Muslims settled, whether in desert landscapes or in historic urban centers. Building a mosque was a sacred trust, dedicated to fulfilling the spiritual needs of the community at large

Thus, it comes as a shock to most Muslims to hear of the repeated destruction of mosques and shrines by Daesh, or the so-called Islamic State. The latest example, blowing up the 12th-century Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, which happened Wednesday, is particularly disturbing. ...

There are several reasons for targeting holy and historic sites: intimidation of local residents, wiping out of religious differences and gaining international attention. But what are the roots of ISIS' destruction of Muslim holy sites and, more importantly, what effect can it have on local populations

Historical precedent can be found in nearby Saudi Arabia, where removing sites associated with early Islamic history took place since the founding of the dynasty in 1744. For example, the tomb-shrine of the Prophet Mohammed's daughter, Fatima, was razed in the 19th century, and the grave of his uncle, Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib, in the 20th century

Saudi clerics announced that these tombs perpetuated idolatry, in which people prayed not to God, but to human intercessors. It is also the reason given for the destruction of Shia and Sufi shrines, by the Saudis as well as ISIS. In more recent years sites surrounding the Kaaba in Mecca have also been removed to make way for luxury hotels and imperial palaces.

Even as the Kingdom encouraged the elimination of commemorative structures, it launched a Mosques Project in the 1980s to bring modern design to traditional Islamic architecture. At the same time, the government sponsored the construction of thousands of mosques and madrassas (theological colleges) throughout the world. ...




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