More on the destruction of the Tomb of Jonah

Posted: July 30, 2014 in ISIS

Jihadists in Iraq Erase Cultural Heritage
Nour Malas
WSJ | Jul 25, 2014

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People walk through the rubble of the Prophet Younis Mosque after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the city of Mosul, July 24, 2014. —REUTERS

A campaign by Sunni insurgents to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria and expel other Muslim sects and religions is taking a severe toll on the countries’ cultural heritage.

The latest casualty was a shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul said to contain the tomb of Jonah, who is revered as a prophet by Jews, Christians and Muslims—who call him Younes. The Nabi Younes Mosque, a towering structure that housed the shrine, was also destroyed in Thursday’s blast.

Militants from Islamic State, the al Qaeda spinoff that seized Mosul on June 10, wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them, residents said, erasing a revered piece of Iraqi heritage. It collapsed in a massive explosion that sent clouds of sand and dust tumbling into the air.

“They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines,” said Omar Ibrahim, a dentist in Mosul. “But Prophet Younes is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul,” said Mr. Ibrahim, a Sunni. “We cried for it with our blood.”

Though its population is predominantly Sunni, Mosul was a symbol of religious intermingling and tolerance in Iraq. Nineveh, the wider province, is a Assyrian Christian center dating back thousands of years. That Jonah’s shrine was in a mosque was a proud reflection of that coexistence.

Visitors used to stream from across Iraq to pray at the mosque, unique in the country for its grand ascending stairs and alabaster floors. Its large prayer rooms had arched entrances inscribed elaborately with Quranic verses.

The site was a monastery centuries ago before it was turned into a mosque, said Emil Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. “Nabi Younes was famous in the city of Mosul, the most famous mosque in the area,” Archbishop Nona said. “I’m very sorry to see this place destroyed.”

Islamic State and other groups following ultraconservative Sunni ideology believe the veneration of shrines or tombs is unholy. Many also denounce the veneration of any prophet besides Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be God’s messenger.

The group has announced by decree its plan to destroy graves and shrines, a strategy it has already followed in neighboring Syria, where the militants have thrived in parts of the north and east.

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Iraqis inspect the wreckage of the Nebi Younes mosque in Mosul on Thursday. European Pressphoto Agency

In Mosul, they have already destroyed at least two dozen shrines, as well as Shiite places of worship, and raided the Mosul Museum, officials said.

"This most recent outrage is yet another demonstration of the terrorist group’s intention to shatter Iraq’s shared heritage and identity," said Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, on Friday.

Iraqi officials at the tourism ministry and religious officials in Mosul confirmed the shrine as destroyed in a militant attack on Thursday. The attack is captured in amateur video footage shot by locals and posted online. In one, a thick plume of brown smoke rises in the air, presumably over the mosque as it collapsed, as the narrator says: "No, no, no. There goes the Prophet Younes."

The shrine held particular significance for Iraqis because Jonah—who in stories in both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale—"was a prophet for all," said Fawziya al-Maliky, director of heritage at the tourism ministry. "We don’t know what these backward militants are thinking, what kind of Islam they are pursuing," she said. "They are pursuing the end of civilization."

The attack was another blow to the country’s Christian community. The Islamic State has been pursuing a deliberate anti-Christian campaign in Iraq.

Thousands of Christians fled Mosul last week after Islamic State posed an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or face death. Christian residents said they were terrorized and humiliated in their own city as militants singled out their homes.

Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, called it "part of the irreversible eradication of Christian history and culture in Iraq."

http://online.wsj.com/articles/jihadists-in-iraq-erase-cultural-heritage-1406313661

 

Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul
Ali Mamouri
Al-Monitor | July 25, 2014

The Islamic State (IS) bombed and destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah east of Mosul on July 24.

Previously, IS had carried out numerous bombings, destroying important cultural sites such as the shrine of the Prophet Daniel west of Mosul, the shrine of one of the grandchildren of the second Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab, as well as mosques, various shrines and numerous other churches. These sites are not only for Shiite Muslims or non-Muslims. Most of them are sacred places for Sunni Muslims as well, and some are even only affiliated with them, in addition to a significant number of statues of famous figures and other cultural sites that also were destroyed.

Sources inside the city confirmed this information to Al-Monitor. Activists on social media networks uploaded pictures and several videos showing the magnitude of the destruction of cultural sites around the city. Sources told Al-Monitor that a state of sorrow and regret reigns in the city and that they have seen plenty of people crying while witnessing the destruction of Jonah’s tomb. Jonah is considered sacred by all Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

What these groups are doing is based on an endemic Salafist principle common to most Salafist movements, whether they are jihadists or not. This principle underlines the need to purify the earth of polytheism and disbelief. These groups consider religious shrines or any other sites related to a certain person to be a kind of sanctification, which is, according to them, a true sign of polytheism.

The destruction of these sites is part of the process of returning to the authentic Islam and eliminating all alien elements, according to the Salafist understanding. This contradicts the traditional understanding of Islam by all Muslim confessions, which means that Islam does not contradict other sanctities, but rather understands them and considers them sacred, especially when the people of these sacred places are prophets of the Quran, such as the prophets Jonah and Daniel and many others from both the New and Old Testaments.

Therefore, international Muslim figures, such as the mufti of Egypt, condemned the destruction of sacred places by IS. The mufti also called for an urgent intervention from the authorities in Iraq and international organizations such as UNESCO to protect these sacred places.

The destruction of sacred places also happened during the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was described as the first political entity for Salafists in the Islamic world. Hundreds of shrines of the prophet’s companions and family have been destroyed, in addition to other important historical sites related to different eras of Islamic history, from the establishment of the first and second Saudi states until this day. These actions also occurred in Afghanistan, Syria and certain areas in Iraq that fell under the control of Salafist groups.

IS threatened to continue the process of destroying sacred places of other confessions and religions, as well as others related to Sunnis. These threats raised the concerns of most Iraqis, especially the Shiites and the religious minorities, in addition to Sunnis who share the same respect and sanctification for these shrines and religious places.

It’s mandatory for the international organizations concerned about human rights and preserving religious freedom and heritage, specifically UNESCO, to work harder and on a larger scale to put an end to this destruction. This is essential since a large number of these places are sanctified and respected by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The concerns about the destruction of sacred places are not limited to them being historic and cultural sites; they include forgiveness and coexistence between different religions and confessions in Iraq. Such destruction harms the long history of coexistence among Iraqi religions. It targets the symbols and main sites which attracted and gathered all confessions and paved the path for communication and understanding, and thus, their coexistence.

It also heightens intolerance and religious hatred and hostility between different confessions. This usually does not quickly fade away, and could create social divisions and demographic subdivisions on a large scale across Iraq. This could eliminate any sort of communication between the various elements of society and create severe conflicts between them.

Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/iraq-is-destruction-shrines-abrahamic-religions.html#ixzz38uOdVOB5

 

The silence is deafening
The Arlington Catholic Herald | 7/29/14

Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf took to the House floor July 29 to speak out for Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically targeted for extinction in Iraq. It is the fifth time in the past week that he has addressed the subject. Following is the text of his remarks:

I want to read the following piece that was posted on NBCNews.com yesterday. The headline was: “Has last Christian left Iraqi city of Mosul after 2,000 years?”

Here is how it began: “Samer Kamil Yacub was alone when four Islamist militants carrying AK-47s arrived at his front door and ordered him to leave the city. The 70-year-old Christian had failed to comply with a decree issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria] (ISIS). Yacub’s hometown of Mosul had boasted a Christian community for almost 2,000 years. But then the al Qaeda-inspired fighters who overran the city last month gave Christians an ultimatum.

“They could stay and pay a tax or convert to Islam – or be killed. Yacub, 70, was one of the few Christians remaining beyond last Saturday’s noon deadline. He may have even been the last to leave alive.

“[A] fighter said, ‘I have orders to kill you now,’” Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 a.m. on Monday. ‘All of the people in my neighborhood were Muslim. They came to help me – about 20 people – at the door in front of my house. They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me.

“The rebels spared Yacub but threw him out of the city where he had spent his entire life. They also took his Iraqi ID card before informing him that elderly women would be given his house.”

Mr. Speaker, this is but one example of what is unfolding in Iraq right before our eyes. The end of Christianity as we know it is taking place in Iraq.

This is the fifth time I have come to the floor over the last week to try to raise awareness of what is happening. To talk about the genocide. It is genocide. Yes, genocide: the systematic extermination of a people of faith by violent extremists seizing power in a region.

Churches and monasteries have been seized. Many of them looted then burned. Last week it was widely reported that ISIS had blown up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Christians – threatened with their lives if they do not leave the region – are being robbed as they leave lands they have lived on for more than 2,000 years.

With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur. Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons – the 12 tribes of Israel – were born in northwest Iraq. The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Many of Iraq’s Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The pope has spoken out.

His Beatitude Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, overseer of Syriac Catholics around the globe, has spoken out.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, has spoken out.

Archbishop Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, has spoken out.

Russell Moore, a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, has spoken out.

Despite these Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening. Does Washington even care?

Where is the Obama Administration? The president has failed.

Where is the Congress? The Congress has failed.

Time is running out. The Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq are being targeted for extinction. They need our help.

Literally, during our time, we will see the end of Christianity in the place it began.

http://www.catholicherald.com/stories/The-silence-is-deafening,26738

 

Assyrian Christians Demand Protection
By Mardean Isaac
2014-07-29

(AINA) — Following the invasion of northern Iraq by the Islamic State, Assyrian Christians and other minorities have found themselves in grave peril. On June 10th, the Islamic State captured Mosul from the Iraqi state. Those Christians who returned after the dwindling of violence following that original onslaught — lacking the means to secure accomodation elsewhere — found their property tagged with an ‘N’ for ‘Nassarrah,’ the Quranic word for Christians.

Last Saturday, the Islamists declared that Mosul’s Christians had three choices: to convert to Islam, pay a hefty jizya tax, face murder, or flee permanently. A mass exodus of Christians ensued. They were not permitted to keep any of their possessions. Louis Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, has declared that no Christians remain in Mosul. As evinced by the seizure of the ancient monastery of Mar Behnam, the apparent destruction of the tomb of Jonah, and several other acts of vandalism and looting perpetrated on historic churches, Iraq’s architectural heritage is also threatened by the extremist group.

The Assyrian town of Qaraqosh, located in the Nineveh Plains around 32 km from Mosul, was emptied of almost all of its inhabitants as ISIS assailed it on June 26. Around 40,000 people fled north, often with nothing but the clothes on their back.

The migration was desperate and chaotic, and the destination entirely uncertain.

These recent events follow a broader pattern of persecution and atrocity unleashed against the Assyrians. Since the 2003 invasion, 73 churches have been attacked or bombed across Iraq. Dozens of priests have been kidnapped or murdered. Thousands of Assyrians have been the victims of violence, and regions and cities, including neighbourhoods Baghdad, have been largely emptied of their indigenous Christian inhabitants.

Marginalised and discriminated against for asserting their ethnic identity under the Fascist Ba’ath regime, the Assyrians now find themselves on the receiving end of violence because of their religion.

Assyrians have absolutely no means of self-defence, let alone legal or political recourse. A chronic failure to create and buttress local security forces populated by members of local communities has led to a state of desperate insecurity in Iraq. As the country’s army and security forces disintegrate, minorities, who are bereft of the patronage fuelling militia activity as well as any effective representation in the state, have been left exposed to violence and dispossession. A similarly grim fate is being forced upon the Assyrians of Syria as large swathes of that country fall to Islamist militants. More than half the Christians of Iraq have fled, and the same exodus is being repeated in Syria. For the first time in history, there are more Assyrians in diaspora than in their ancient homelands of Iraq and Syria.

I am a British-Assyrian writer and the UK leader of a new campaign, A Demand for Action, spearheaded by the tireless Swedish-Assyrian journalist Nuri Kino, which seeks to protect Christians and other minorities in their ancestral homelands.

We are not affiliated with any existing political organisaions or religious groups: we are a free association comprised of the Assyrian diaspora in over a dozen countries who have organised over social media.. On a daily basis, we disseminate media, coordinate e-mail and letter campaigns, write and publish articles, and contact parliamentarians, ministers, officials, and persons of authority and influence.

Please join our group to strengthen our efforts and keep abreast of developments as well as responses to them.

If we do not act immediately to protect and support the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, they will be exterminated. And with their extermination, the legacy of one of the oldest indigenous peoples on the planet will disappear. This tragedy will never be lifted from the conscience of the world. We must act now.

http://www.aina.org/news/20140729155259.htm

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