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ISIS’s Destruction of Mosul’s Historical Monuments: Between Media Spectacle and Religious Doctrine

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This article examines the rationale behind ISIS’s (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) destruction of the historical monuments in the Iraqi town of Mosul. Their demolition campaign started shortly after this radical organization seized control of the town on June 10, 2014 and was systematically tracked by the authors during the first fifteen months of their control of Mosul. Analysis of satellite imagery, historical literature and ISIS’s propaganda material shows that the main object of their destruction was funerary architecture. The collected data has been interpreted within the context of the discourse regarding the destruction of graves in Salafi teachings. The article assumes that among the range of possible reasons for ISIS’s behaviour toward Mosul’s architecture, special importance should be ascribed to the religious doctrine of taswiyat al-qubur (the levelling of graves). This particular policy has been supported by Salafi scholars and ideologists and often vigorously invoked by religious institutions within Saudi Arabia.
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Keywords: ISIS; Islamic State; Islamic architecture; heritage destruction; levelling of graves; taswiyat al-qubur

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences

Publication date: 01 July 2017

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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