Sunday 23 August 2015

The Roots of ISIL Cultural Erasure

Halla Diyab has an interesting piece in Al-Arabiya News: 'ISIS wages cultural warfare on Syria’s heritage', Wednesday, 12 August 2015. She discusses the roots of the destruction of  places of memory and other sites and monuments and the attempt to create a new culture that serves their extreme narrative.
 The culture being constructed by ISIS is an effort to “revive,” or more appropriately, manufacture, a culture to which their fighters can belong despite their distance and alienation from home. Most of these jihadists have difficulty feeling a sense of belonging to or identifying with the European culture of their home countries. ISIS offers them a new territorial space in Syria to construct and participate in a new culture and society, one to which they can easily belong.[...]  ISIS are seeking to establish themselves, not only as the colonizers of Syria, but as the “new Syrians.” ISIS recognises that it must exterminate all symbols of the existing Syrian culture manifested by its heritage (e.g. artefacts, historical sites and monuments), rip out the roots of the country’s cultural memory leaving nothing left, in order for the new, forcibly-planted culture to grow successfully. To justify these acts, the organization claims that it is getting rid of all icons of heritage and religious monuments to leave an unobstructed path to Islam. However, this pretence conceals the real reasons behind ISIS’s policy of destruction. In the first place, this is the removal of any and all any obstructions to their own control and narrative in order to gradually become the living God. By erasing the cultural memory of the Syrian people, demolishing moral codes and severing cultural ties, they can create their own legacy as living icons for the next generation in Syria.

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