The New York Times is—rightly—horrified by ISIS’s ongoing destruction of ancient
Since seizing Palmyra
from government forces in May, Islamic State fighters have destroyed some of the most beautiful and historically significant monuments in the sprawling oasis city in Syria’s central desert, one of the world’s most renowned archaeological sites.
Thus Anne Barnard reported on Oct. 5, in “ISIS Destroys Triumphal Archies in Palymra,
Syria,” the latest of her many shocking articles on that Islamist blast through northeast
Syria. Here is Barnard’s lede in “ISIS Speeds Up Destruction of Antiquities in Syria,”
which ran back on Aug. 24:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Islamic State militants have razed a fifth-century Roman Catholic monastery and blown up one of the best-preserved first-century temples in Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city that is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, according to government officials and local activists.
And that was just this past week — in one Syrian province.
Nor (of course) is the New York Times the only Western outlet spotlighting ISIS’s pious
vandalism—a scourge likewise reported/deplored by CNN, ABC, CBS, NPR, the BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mail (“ISIS thugs take a hammer to civilisation”) and many others.
This wave of outraged reportage recalls the story of the Taliban’s like devastation in
Afghanistan 14 years ago—as NBC News reminisced in March: “In 2001, the world
reacted in horror as, [as] part of a campaign to rid Afghanistan of idolatry, the Taliban
destroyed the World Heritage Site Buddhas of Bamiyan.”
From all those uniform laments you’d think the Western press was one gigantic lobby
for the global preservation of antiquities.
But if you thought that, you’d be wrong: While noisily deploring the sporadic cultural
atrocities by those wild Sunni agents, the Western press says nothing of the far more
systematic—and successful—devastation of Islam’s own architectural legacy,
perpetrated by the royal funders of those agents (among others).
Here’s a pertinent article by Carla Power, for Time, published last November—and
if that news touched off a larger fireball of press outrage in the West, I evidently
missed it. (And so it is with the relentless gentrification of Acre, Jaffa, and other
cities throughout Israel.)
Meanwhile, all those journalists so hot and bothered by the demolition of those
ancient structures in Afghanistan and Syria would seem to be untroubled by the
ongoing destruction of New York, San Francisco, London, Vancouver—and so
many other Western cities made increasingly unrecognizable, unlivable and
unaffordable by billionaire developers, and their pet politicians.
Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage
Fayez Nureldine—AFP/Getty ImagesAn aerial view shows the Clock Tower, the Grand Mosque, and surrounding constructions sites in the holy city of Mecca, in 2013.
Over 98% of the Kingdom’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985, according to the U.K.-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation
For centuries the Kaaba, the black cube in the center of Mecca, Saudi Arabia that is Islam’s holiest point, has been encircled by arched porticos erected some three centuries ago by the Ottomans, above dozens of carved marble columns dating back to the 8th century. But earlier this month, any vestiges of the portico and columns were reduced to rubble, cleared to make way for the Saudi government’s expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.