Even Iraq's dead Christians aren’t safe from ISIS.
The Islamic State's campaign of terror across the war-torn nation,
which has already seen countless beheadings, destruction of priceless
art and religious artifacts and insistence that Christians submit or
die, now includes mass desecration of graves. Photos of the black-clad,
extremist ghouls smashing headstones in cemeteries in the key northern
city of Mosul were posted Thursday online under the title "Leveling
Graves and Erasing Pagan Symbols."
"The April 16 destruction of Christian graves in Mosul, Iraq by the
Islamic State (ISIS) is part of the organization's ongoing campaign
against Christianity, in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim
world," said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which flagged the photos.
The shocking images appeared on the Shomoukh Al-Islam jihadi forum
and other various websites, according to MEMRI. They show ISIS militants
shattering graves with sledgehammers and carving out the crosses that
were engraved on the stones. The photos were released along with a
statement claiming to justify the defacing. The "hadith," or Islamic
teaching, stated that any grave higher than ground level must be
shattered. Any images on such graves must be erased as well, according
to the twisted edict.
The hadith claims Prophet Mohammad told followers not to "leave an
elevated grave without leveling it, nor an image without erasing it.”
While desecrating graves is not the worst of ISIS' crimes, Stalinsky told FoxNews.com it sends a strong signal to the West.
"It is important to note that ISIS is documenting its destruction and
desecration of Christian sites and its attacks on Christian
communities, and on other minorities' sites and communities, and is
disseminating these images worldwide via social media," he said. "By
doing this, ISIS is not only showcasing what it is doing, but is also
mocking the West by demonstrating that it is doing so freely, with no
one trying to stop it."
The defacing is just the latest in what some have described as a “cultural cleansing” of Iraq and Syria by ISIS.
“ISIS and other Islamists argue that elevated graves suggest the dead
person is closer to Allah than the living, so they must be destroyed,”
Ryan Mauro, national security analyst with the Clarion Project, told
FoxNews.com. “They believe that grave sites, even ones that aren't
elevated, need to be destroyed if they become a place of idolatry in the
form of grave worship. Christian ones are especially at risk because
Christianity is seen as a form of polytheism."Since declaring a caliphate across a vast swath of Iraq and Syria,
ISIS has specifically targeted religious institutions-- destroying
mosques, temples and churches. They have also destroyed priceless
historical artifacts as well as selling other antiquities on the black
market to fund their operations.
ISIS also considers worshipping or mourning at grave sites to be
equal to idolatry and have often destroyed such sites in an attempt to
“purify unbelievers,” Mauro said.
“These acts stem from Islamic interpretations that are more broadly
held than just within ISIS and these interpretations need to be
addressed,” Mauro said. “More modern Muslims say [the hadith cited by
ISIS] was an instruction for a specific time and purpose and is not
applicable to today, but ISIS is acting upon a widely-taught
The northern Iraqi City of Mosul has been occupied by ISIS since June
2014 and is considered to be the main stronghold for the terror group
in the region. Once ISIS took over the city, it issued an edict to drive
out the remaining Christian citizens. As recently as January, the U.S.
has begun to coordinate airstrikes with Kurdish forces to take back
Mosul. It is believed that a major offense will take place there in the
next few months.