At War With Reality

by Rebecca Bynum (Oct. 2007)

 

Religion in its deepest sense, meaning the human perception of spiritual reality, is pre-cultural and not culturally dependant. The form culture takes is rather dependent upon the common characterization of that primary human perception of spiritual reality known as religion. The question, what is the nature of God, is the same as, what is the nature of reality? If God is perceived primarily as love and the reality we inhabit as benevolent then man’s reaction to the spiritual impulse is channeled toward being loving and gentle toward his neighbors and he seeks wise stewardship and is caring toward nature. If, on the other hand, God is perceived primarily as harsh and judgmental, then the human religious impulse will be channeled toward societal control and the domination of nature. We observe both these strains in varying degrees in Christianity. Some, most notably Richard Weaver, have even made the claim that Western man’s drive to subdue and dominate nature has grown directly from Puritan Protestantism. Christianity as a whole, however, has fostered curiosity about the world (the truth of reality) and Christian investigation into the past has generally been impartial.

Our current civilizational conflict is often characterized as “Islam against the West” or more accurately, “Islam against the Rest,” because Islamic doctrine mandates a permanent struggle by Muslims against all that is non-Islamic. But the war of Islam goes deeper than that for it sets up hostility toward reality itself by elevating a substitute reality in its stead. This is particularly evident in the Muslim attitude toward history. All events prior to the coming of Muhammad belong to the “time of ignorance” and are seen by Muslims as having no relevance or value. Muslims accept without question the stories in the Qur’an, Hadiths, and Sira as true history and are implacably hostile to those who dare to investigate Islamic history employing non-Islamic sources, such as Ibn Warraq and Christoph Luxenberg.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Islamization is its substitution of Islamic history for the history of the areas it has conquered. Islam effectively stifles the curiosity of people toward their history, by declaring that history worthless. Pre-Islamic art, literature, music or archaeological artifacts are all deemed, not only unimportant, but potentially dangerous to Islam, and have been treated as such throughout Muslim history. However, one must wonder whether this hostility does not stem from the fear that too much actual reality might topple the all-encompassing substitute reality of Islam.

The Muslim Prophet Muhammad is recorded to have said: “Angels do not enter the house in which there is a dog or a statue” (Sahih Muslim bk. 24, no. 5250). Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, recounted: “I never used to leave in the Prophet’s house anything carrying images or crosses but he obliterated it” (Sahih Bukhari, vol. 7, bk. 72, no. 836). And let us not forget Muhammad is also said to have destroyed all the religious icons once held in the Kaaba in Mecca as well.

It is a matter of Muslim theology that everything which occurred before the coming of Islam is jahiliyya – the time of ignorance, or, the state of ignorance of the guidance from God – and it is asserted that this has nothing whatever to teach Muslims. On the contrary, it must be resisted because such knowledge is considered dangerous as it has the potential to lead Muslims away from the “straight path” of Islam, possibly into idolatry.  As Fjordman writes in The Importance of Knowing Your History:

Saladin or Salah al-Din, the twelfth century general loved by Muslims for his victories against the Crusaders, is renowned even in Western history for his supposedly tolerant nature. Very few seem to remember that his son Al-Aziz Uthman, the second sultan of the Ayyubid Dynasty founded by Saladin and presumably influenced by his father's religious convictions, actually tried to demolish the Great Pyramids of Giza only three years after his father's death in 1193. The reason why we can still visit them today is because the task at hand was so big that he eventually gave up the attempt. He did, however, manage to inflict significant damage to Menkaure's Pyramid, the smallest of the Great Pyramids, which contains scars clearly visible to this day. It is tempting to view this as a continuation of his father's Jihad against non-Muslims:

"When king Al-Aziz Othman, son of [Saladdin] succeeded his father, he let himself be persuaded by some people from his Court, who were devoid of good sense, to demolish the pyramids. One started with the red pyramid, which is the third of the great pyramids, and the smallest. (...) They brought there a large number of workmen from all around, and supported them at great cost. They stayed there for eight whole months (...) This happened in the year 593 [ i.e. 1196 AD)."

Such vandalism has been a recurring feature of Islamic nations throughout the ages. Guarding the pyramids at the Giza Plateau is the Great Sphinx. However, sphinxes in ancient times usually appeared in pairs, and there are indications in both classical and medieval sources that the Sphinx used to have a twin. According to archaeologist Michael Poe, there was another sphinx facing the famous one on the other side of the Nile, but it was damaged during a Nile flood, and then completely dismantled by Muslims using it as a quarry for their villages.

The legend that the missing nose of the Great Sphinx was removed by
Napoléon Bonaparte's artillery during the French expedition to Egypt
1798-1801 is not only factually incorrect, it's ludicrous to anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of history. Sketches indicate that the nose was gone long before this. The Egyptian fifteenth century historian al-Maqrizi attributes the act to Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr, a Sufi Muslim. According to al-Maqrizi, in the fourteenth century, upon discovering that local peasants made offerings to the Sphinx to bless their harvest, al-Dahr became furious at their idolatry and decided to destroy the statue, managing only to break off its nose. It is hard to confirm whether this story is accurate, but if it is, it demonstrates that Sufis are not always the soft and tolerant Muslims they are made out to be.”


Ancient Roman ruins all over North Africa and the Mediterannean from Tunisia to the Beqaa valley were similarly quarried by local Muslims for their stone or have simply been allowed to crumble. Nor is this a problem of the past. In April 2006, the Grand Mufti of Egypt
Ali Gomaa, the country's top Muslim religious authority, issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, condemning the display of statues in Egypt.

[M]any Islamic scholars believe that erecting statues for any purpose is haraam (forbidden by Islam), whether they are memorials to kings or symbols of wisdom and courage, like the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt.

"Islamic societies have traditionally been less tolerant of sculpture than painting," [Jamal Elias, a religion professor at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts] said.

"I would speculate [that it's because] three-dimensional representations are more threateningly a likeness of something that is 'in the flesh,' and therefore there is a greater danger of mistakenly and inappropriately showing reverence to the object."

Gomaa, the Egyptian mufti, reportedly pointed to a passage from the hadith that stated, "Sculptors would be tormented most on Judgment Day."


Shortly afterward, in June 2006,
a fully covered, religious woman” destroyed three statues in the museum of the Egyptian sculptor, Hassan Heshmat, while screaming, “Infidels! Infidels!”

The Muslim attitude toward sculpture, rooted as it is in Islamic religious texts is remarkably consistent over time and place. For example, when Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin and British Ambassador to Constantinople, obtained permission to remove the marble statues from the Greek Parthenon, then under Ottoman control (in 1800), the Sultan’s document granting permission referred to the Parthenon as "the temple of idols."  Furthermore, a “Jesuit monk named Babeu had observed a Turk shooting at the monuments…More Turkish bullets scarred the columns of the Propylaea and the Parthenon when a Greek garrison was defending the Acropolis against a Turkish siege in 1826-7.” Lord Elgin is universally held up to scorn today for removing the statuary, but we cannot know what might have been their fate under the Ottomans had they not been removed.

Here is a description of what happened to the Kabul museum in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union in 1995, carried in Eastern Economic Review:

…[Afghan] Soldiers stole all the most precious objects, [Kabul museum director Najibulla] Popol said. Less-important artifacts were left smashed on the floor, while those too heavy to carry out such as life-sized statues of Kushan warriors from 200 BC and the largest Buddhas were badly damaged. According to Sayed Delju Hussaini, Afghan minister of information and culture, 90% of the museum's collection has been looted. "It was one of the richest museums in the entire region, covering 50,000 years of history in Afghanistan and Central Asia," Hussaini laments.

"The collection of ivories, statues, paintings, coins, gold, pottery, armaments and dress from the pre-historic period to the Bactrian, Kushan and Gandhara civilizations, through to the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim periods, was unimaginable," concurs Pakistani academic Hasan Dani, a leading archaeologist and historian of the Pakistan-Afghanistan region…

"The trade in Afghan antiquities has become the biggest money earner after the heroin trade, and it is often the same mafias who are doing both," says a senior Western diplomat who is involved in tracking down some of the lost pieces. Adds a Western antiquities expert: "Twenty percent or the cream of the collection has already been sold off outside the region. The rest is in Pakistan and Afghanistan awaiting buyers."

In Peshawar, two 2,500-year old heads of the Hindu god Shiva that were once on display in the museum are currently available for $7,000 each. Exquisitely carved ivory statues of Indian courtesans from the 2nd century AD are for sale in Islamabad for $35,000 each. Twelve such ivories were sold in London to a Tokyo collector for $600,000, according to diplomats and government officials. The rape of the Kabul museum and the scattering of its collection is more than just a litany of smashed and stolen antiques. Although there are still large unexplored archaeological sites in Afghanistan which could turn up more treasures, archaeologists and historians say the losses from the museum amount to the destruction of a major part of Afghanistan's cultural heritage.

"If new artifacts are dug up, they will be disconnected with the past because the record here has gone," says Clara Grissmann, an American art historian who worked with Popol in the 1970s to create the first complete inventory of the museum. Aged 66, she has recently returned to Kabul to help Popol catalogue the few pieces that remain.

Now that the museum's treasures and records have been destroyed, there is little from which a younger generation can learn. Everything has been cut off from its history," Grissmann says. Only a handful of educated Afghans know how, when and from where the museum acquired its treasures. They alone can recognize the stolen pieces and pinpoint the country's archaeological sites. "There are perhaps 15 Afghans left who know the museum and its contents. After they go, that's it," Grissmann adds…

This occurred six years before an edict was issued by the Taliban in March 2001 to destroy ALL pre-Islamic statues and objects in Afghanistan. Muslims then proceeded to destroy the remaining statues in the Kabul museum which had survived the previous looting. The two giant Buddhas from the 5th century in Bamiyan, and other ancient historical statues in Ghazni were destroyed with the help of Saudi engineers. Click here to see video of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas released by Al Jazeera.

In September 2007, there was an attempt to obliterate what remains of some Buddhist statuary in Swat, Pakistan, but judging by the photographs, these statues had already been defaced sometime before.

On the subcontinent, Sita Ram Goel has done an exhaustive survey of the Muslim destruction of Hindu temples published in two volumes. He presents evidence of over 2,000 former Hindu temples that were destroyed and mosques built over the ruins.

Hugh Fitzgerald writes:

One opens "The World of Islam" by Ernst J. Grube (Curator, Islamic Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art), part of the series "Landmarks of the World's Art," and finds on p. 165 a picture of the "Kutb Mosque (Quwaat al-Islam) Delhi" shown and described:

Built by Kutb al-din Aibak in his fortress of Lallkot near Old Delhi in 1193. This mosque is the earliest extant monument of Islamic architecture in India and its combination of local, pre-Muslim traditions and imported architectural forms is typical of the earliest period. The mosque is built on the ruins of a Jain temple...

So the earliest "extant monument of Islamic architecture in India" was "built on the ruins of a Jain temple" -- that temple being made into "ruins," of course, by the Muslim invaders.

But that was then, you think to yourself.

And this is now. And now, in the full light of history, knowing that they are being watched, surely they will not do such things. Surely, in this new 21st century, Muslims everywhere will watch their steps, and not desecrate, vandalize, destroy as before.

But then you look only at what has happened since the new century began, since 2000. And here is a tentative list off the top of my head:

• Bamiyan Buddhas, 1,500 years old, in Afghanistan, destroyed by Taliban with explosives, and technical help from Saudi and Pakistani engineers.

• Tomb of Joseph in Israel, reduced to rubble by the "Palestinians," despite that site supposedly being sacred to Muslims as well as to Jews.

• A Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, where Hindus and Chinese both labor under the disguised Jizyah of the Bumiputra system.

• Orthodox churches and monasteries, destroyed in Kosovo and Bosnia, in full view of NATO troops, the U.N., and the world's media.

• And then, of course, the thousands of churches destroyed in Indonesia, as recorded by the Barnabas Fund.

• The remaining Greco-Bactrian artifacts among the tiny holdings in the Kabul Museum.

• The damage done to the Temple Mount structure by the excavations and vandalism to Solomon's Stables from the "Palestinians."

• Statuary vandalized by Muslims -- both Christian statuary in a church in northern France, and pagan statuary in the Piazza del Popolo.

We also witnessed the looting of the Baghdad museum during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. But as to the many accusations that the Bush Administration should have foreseen this behavior, I can only say, that had they had the understanding of Muslim societies to foresee the looting of the museum, they would likewise have foreseen the inevitability of the insurgency, the implacable hostility between Sunni and Shia and the inevitability of their civil war, as well as the entrenched tribalism that makes the creation of a nation-state in the modern sense of the word impossible except under the kind of brutal dictatorship Saddam Hussein provided. American officials would have known it would be rare to find a sense of reverence toward artifacts produced by non-Muslims even if those non-Muslims were the ancestors of modern Iraqis. The administration would have understood the only value felt by Iraqis for these priceless objects was the money those artifacts could be exchanged for on the streets of Baghdad. It should also be noted that the Baghdad museum was established by a westerner in the 1920’s, Gertrude Bell. Muslim Iraqis, occupying the land where the earliest human civilization is known to have existed, ancient Sumer (5300-2000 B.C.), did not evince any curiosity about it and did not investigate the historical and archaeological Sumerian records on their own. The Egyptian museum, likewise, was founded not by native Muslim Egyptians, but by a Frenchman in 1863, Auguste Mariette.

Let us examine one final example, the attitude of Muslims in Jerusalem toward the remains of the ancient Jewish temple complex which lies beneath the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque. This is the site where Jesus as a boy conversed with the scholars, where he taught from the temple steps, where he overturned the tables of the money changers, where he challenged the priests and where the priests challenged him. In other words, this is a site which should be of the utmost concern for Christians as well as for Jews, and for all people of good will who are concerned with the preservation of history.

From an MSNBC article, Nov 17, 2006,

In November 1999, the Waqf, the Muslim organization that administers the site’s Islamic holy places, opened an emergency exit to an ancient underground chamber of stone pillars and arches known to Jews as Solomon’s Stables and to Muslims as the Marwani mosque.

Ignoring fierce protest from Israeli archaeologists who said priceless artifacts were being destroyed to erase traces of Jewish history, the Waqf dug a large pit, removed tons of earth and rubble that had been used as landfill and dumped much of it in the nearby Kidron Valley.

The Waqf’s position was, and remains, that the rubble was of recent vintage and without archaeological value.

Zachi Zweig, a 27-year-old archaeology undergraduate at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, showed up at the dump a few days later. Though Israel’s archaeological establishment had shown no interest in the rubble, Zweig was sure it was important, especially after a Waqf representative told him to leave.

Zweig returned surreptitiously with friends, gathered samples of the rubble and discovered a high concentration of ancient pottery shards. He was charged by the Israel Antiquities Authority with stealing relics — charges that were later dropped — and finally convinced Barkay, his lecturer at the university, that the rubble needed to be studied.

In 2004, after five years spent getting a dig license and raising funds, they had 75 truckloads of rubble moved to a lot on the slopes of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.

The first coin they found, Barkay said, was one issued during the Jewish revolt that preceded the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., imprinted with the Hebrew words “Freedom of Zion.”

The most valuable find so far, Barkay believes, is a clay seal impression discovered last year. Its incomplete Hebrew lettering appears to name Ge’aliyahu, son of Immer. Immer is the name of a family of temple officials mentioned in Jeremiah 20:1… (between the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.)

For its part, the Waqf says it wasn’t destroying any evidence of Jewish presence — because there isn’t any.

“I have seen no evidence of a temple,” said the Waqf’s director, Adnan Husseini. He had heard “stories,” he acknowledged, “but these are an attempt to change the situation here today, and any change would be very dangerous.”

The same thing happened in August-September of 2007 when the Waqf again used heavy machinery to dig on the Temple Mount in order replace electrical cable. Again they denied having found or destroyed any Jewish antiquities even though, “the Muslim diggers came across a wall Israeli archaeologists believe may be remains of an area of the Second Jewish Temple known as the woman's courtyard,” they simply “continued using bulldozers to blast away at the trench containing the wall.”

Therefore, knowing what we know about the intractability of Muslim attitudes toward humanity’s priceless art and antiquities, would it not be wise to anticipate their attempted destruction by Muslim fanatics and to take steps now to protect them? We cannot continue to pretend we have nothing to worry about from our Muslim neighbors. In 1936, Winston Churchill wrote about a similar time, we “go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent. So we go on, preparing, more months and years – precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of Britain – for the locusts to eat.” 

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Rebecca Bynum contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all her contributions, on which comments are welcome.


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