Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
The great columns and pediments of Washington, D.C. that give it a Roman and Greek air have their origins in a lost city in the Syrian desert. After Robert Wood and James Dawkins visited the ruins of Palmyra in the eighteenth century, the illustrations of the bare columns and broken arches helped inspire neoclassical architecture. Now the city that helped inspire Washington is occupied by ISIS.
It is a historical irony that the classical architecture of our national capital where Islamic terrorists are appeased owes a good deal to a forgotten Christian outpost that surrendered to the armies of Islam.
Some would even say that history is repeating itself.
Palmyra fell when it was besieged by the savage horde of Khalid ibn al-Walid; the Sword of Allah. The Sword of Allah was known for numerous atrocities. One particularly gruesome account describes how he murdered the Arab poet and chieftain Malik ibn Nuweira for returning taxes demanded by Mohammed to his people, telling them, “Your wealth is now your own.” The Islamic IRS was even nastier than ours.
The Sword of Allah cut off Malik’s head and used it to cook dinner before raping his wife. Through such atrocities, that helped inspire the modern crimes of ISIS, the Sword of Allah was able to keep Mohammed’s conquests together after his death. When he came to Palmyra, the Sword swore by Allah that he would conquer it even if it were in heaven and capture its sons and daughters.
Hoping to save their lives, the people of Palmyra surrendered and became dhimmis. Arabic replaced Aramaic, Islam replaced Christianity and the city once founded by King Solomon mostly vanished from history. Those inhabitants who survived the terrible centuries of Islamic occupation, lost their identity, their religion and any knowledge that they were of a nobler kind than their brutal conquerors.
Palmyra falls again with its capture by ISIS. This fall may be its final one. If ISIS has its way, the ruins of the city that helped inspire the rebirth of classical architecture in England and America will be destroyed.
Like the old armies of Islam that destroyed the Library of Alexandria because its books were a threat to the totalitarian writ of the Koran, ISIS destroys the remains of the civilizations that predated Islam. It is not alone in seeking to destroy the histories of more civilized times so that none of the peoples under its rule can ever seek to better themselves by reaching for something higher and better than the Koran.
America found inspiration in ancient civilizations to reach higher. ISIS wants a world where no one can ever know that there were better men than Mohammed and the Sword of Allah, so that its followers will aspire to be nothing better than murderers and rapists, destroying the past to kill the future.
While the archeological mass destruction practiced by ISIS and the Taliban is well known, “moderate” Muslim kingdoms like Saudi Arabia engage in the same practice. Wahhabism began with the destruction of relics. While Europeans were marveling over Palmyra, the House of Saud was massacring thousands and destroying historical artifacts across Iraq and Syria in a manner indistinguishable from ISIS.
The Islamic State’s Caliph has vowed that “After Ramadi, will come Baghdad and Karbala.” ISIS is retracing the path of the House of Saud, which had declared, “We took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah… and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”
That horrid event took place in the same year that Washington D.C. was incorporated as a city and the Library of Congress was founded. There could hardly be a better contrast between Islam and America.
That is what we are up against, not only in the fight against ISIS, but in the Clash of Civilizations.
Islamists in Libya and Timbuktu, after Obama’s illegal regime change destabilized the region, were left free to destroy mausoleums and shrines. When UNESCO protested, the Jihadists of Ansar Dine, the Defenders of Islam, responded by mocking the helpless international organization, “We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what? [We are acting] in the name of Allah.”
Now UNESCO is appealing to protect Palmyra from the modern Swords of Allah, but it’s equally helpless to do so. The Swords of Allah and Defenders of Islam are savages who thrive on terror. They destroy everything that reminds them of their own cultural inferiority. They cannot be reasoned with.
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova calls the potential destruction of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, “an enormous loss to humanity.” But we cannot save the ruins of Palmyra until we recognize that the forces threatening it today are the same as those that left it a forgotten ruin in the desert.
The enormous loss to humanity started when the warlords of Islam began the destruction of thousands of years of civilization. ISIS is only finishing what the armies of Mohammed began.
When it burns manuscripts in the Mosul Library, ISIS is following up Caliph Omar’s destruction of the Library of Alexandria. When the Jihad conquered Persia and found “innumerable quantity of books and scientific treatises”, Omar commanded, “Throw them into the water.”
Until we recognize that ISIS is the extension of the Islamic imperative of cultural mass destruction, we will continue losing cultural heritage sites, not only in the Middle East, but in Europe as well, where churches are being turned into mosques, Georg Engelhard Schröder’s Juno is covered up in the Swedish Legislature to avoid offending Muslims and a Mozart opera is shut down in Berlin.
Palmyra is likely to meet the same fate as Aleppo and Nimrud. As have Hatra and Khorsabad.
The ruins of Nimrud were bulldozed and blown up. In Mosul, ISIS savages rampaged through the museum smashing artifacts. Dabiq, the ISIS magazine, explained that, “The kuffar (non-Muslims) had unearthed these statues and ruins in recent generations and attempted to portray them as part of a cultural heritage and identity that the Muslims of Iraq should embrace and be proud of.”
ISIS, like the armies of Islam dating back to Mohammed, has as its core mission the destruction of the pre-Islamic cultures that might inspire people living under Islam to better themselves, to look beyond the black veil of Islam to the past and the future. There is nothing savages hate more than civilization.
What is at stake in the Clash of Civilizations is the destruction of civilization. The ruins of Palmyra inspired our civilization. Their threatened destruction should inspire us to protect our own civilization from the Swords of Allah before all that remains of our cities is the ruins of a lost greatness.
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