Many were the Ways of Life that have passed away before you: travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth. (Qur’an 3:137)
This is one of the foundations of the Islamic idea that pre-Islamic civilizations, and non-Islamic civilizations, are all jahiliyya — the society of unbelievers, which is worthless. Obviously this cuts against the idea of tourism of ancient sites and non-Muslim religious installations such as St. Catherine’s monastery. V. S. Naipaul encountered this attitude in his travels through Muslim countries. For many Muslims, he observed in Among the Believers, “The time before Islam is a time of blackness: that is part of Muslim theology. History has to serve theology.” Naipaul recounted that some Pakistani Muslims, far from valuing the nation’s renowned archaeological site at Mohenjo Daro, saw its ruins as a teaching opportunity for Islam, recommending that Qur’an 3:137 be posted there as a teaching tool.
“ISIS Destroys 3000 Year-old Assyrian Artifacts in Syria,” AINA, May 17, 2014:
(AINA) — According to a report from the website www.apsa2011.com, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3000 years old.
The Assyrian archaeological artifacts were illegally excavated from the Tell Ajaja site.
Looting of Assyrian artifacts was also carried out in Iraq soon after 2003 by Al-Qaeda, which sold the artifacts to finance its operations. The looting occurred at the Baghdad Museum (AINA 2003-04-19) as well as archaeological sites which were left unguarded as a result of the collapse of the government of Saddam Hussein (AINA 2005-02-17).