“Accompanied by a campaign against the Past-;- by the closing of museums,
the blowing up of historical monuments (luckily most of them had already been destroyed
during the Nine Years’ War)-;- by the suppression of all books published before A.F. 15O…
All crosses had their tops cut and became T’s. There was also a thing called God.”
No, it’s not the dreaded Islamic State also known as ISIS´-or-ISIL. This is His Fordship the Controller Mustapha Mond, in Aldous Huxley’s prophetic dystopian novel Brave New World. Mond was explaining the foundation of that new world to a group of attentive students. Destroying the past is imperative because the past, our history, reminds us of who we were in the past and shows us who we are in the present. History helps us learn from our mistakes, tells us of our glories and points to our horrors. It encourages us to make better choices for the future. Civilization is built on the history of peoples. We are descendants and outcomes of our civilization. History encourages us to think critically of our present and to ask questions about how to make the future a better place. It inspires us – tells us of people of moral courage and people who made moral decisions in spite of adversity and persecution. It also tells us of others who have made evil choices. It shows us people who have motivated others to rise against tyranny and to seek freedoms and warns us of people who have chosen to oppress and enslave others. Think Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Galileo, Thomas Moore, Joan of Arc, Che Givara, Omar al Mukhtar, Jameela Bu Hreid and thousands of others in all fields of life, fighting for selfless causes. Think people who took the greatest care to record their lives and times, with meticulous in-script-ions and drawings on walls and exquisite sculptures that narrate stories of national glory´-or-of grand and fervent religious beliefs. Think the Mayans, the Pharaohs, the Assyrians.
A hatred of history, therefore, is nothing short of a hatred of self and an unwillingness to go outside oneself to attempt to learn about oneself and others. But, as Huxley said: “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
And then comes ISIL. The destructive force of ISIL has most certainly taken many people by surprise – blowing up monuments, sculptures, even entire cities that had any historical significance. It blew up churches and mosques – bulldozed entire cities and destroyed even the graves of the dead.
Note the destruction targeting particular histories – the Assyrians, the Yazidis, the Shiaas. The deliberateness of the destruction and the publication of such destruction on the Internet as a propaganda tool poses a real threat to these communities. As the UNESCO -dir-ector stated, ISIL is “using the destruction of heritage as a terror strategy to destabilize and manipulate people, to ensure domination.” Between destroying monuments and selling others as money-making loot, an entire history of a great civilization is being wiped out – particularly the Assyrians.
The rationale ISIL gives for such destruction is found in one of its videos: “These antiquities and idols behind me were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of God. When God Almighty orders us to destroy these statues, idols and antiquities, we must do it, even if they’re worth billions of dollars.” [cnn translation]
History does not matter. History is an idol that needs to be destroyed – especially if it was created by ‘infidels’. History is bunk. We have no identity. It is a cultural genocide eliminating our very memories.
One of my Iraqi friends, a photographer and journalist, who was forced out of his home in Mosul, told me how they burnt his home with all the family pictures and other pictures he cherished. One can never bring those back. They are not only memories.. they are history.. they are what forms his identity.
The Ford, the near-deity of brave new world says it simply: ‘history is bunk’ – "He waved his hand-;- and it was as though, with an invisible feather wisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees-;- some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk – and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk – and those specks of antique -dir-t called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom – all were gone. Whisk – the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals-;- whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion-;- whisk, Requiem-;- whisk, Symphony-;- whisk."
Whisk… indeed.. history is bunk. While we sit and watch the destruction of a part of our civilization in total impotence and horror, we are depriving our children and grand children from understanding their own history and past. We will tell them, as the Ford told his guests, that once upon a time, as in a fairy tale, there was “something called the pyramids.. and a man called Shakespeare.”
March and February 2015 witnessed the worst destruction – but it had started a year earlier, whenever ISIL set foot in any city. Here is a non-comprehensive list:
- destroyed Khorsabad, nine miles from Mosul. It is a 2,700-Year-Old Assyrian City.
- destroyed Jonah’s tomb in Mosul [June 2014]
- list of demolished Christian institutions in Mosul
- destroyed antiquities in Mosul Museum destroyed [video]
- Tilskif: destroyed personal belongings, even photos & homes
- destroyed crosses on Mar Ephraim Church’s main building, Mosul
- destroyed Al Hatra ancient city in Iraq by bulldozing it [video] [video]
- destroyed church in Nineveh
- destroyed ancient city of Nimrud in Mosul. City dates back to 13 BC
- destroyed the Shingal minaret. Dates back to antiquity & was regarded as a religious symbol for Yezidi Kurds
- destroyed al Khadr Mosque – dating back to 9th century – in Mosul
- destroyed the Mosul Library with thousands of rare manu-script-s