Besides removing supposed temptations to idolatry, Islamic jihadists want to ruin the artifacts of non-Muslim civilizations because doing so testifies to the truth of Islam, as the Qur’an suggests that ruins are a sign of Allah’s punishment of those who rejected his truth:
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.
“Iraq: Isis blows up 10th century Assyrian Catholic monastery near Mosul,” by Gianluca Mezzofiore, International Business Times, March 10, 2015:
The Islamic State (Isis) has blown up a 10th century Chaldean Catholic church north of Mosul and bulldozed a nearby graveyard, according to sources.
Nineveh Yakou , Assyrian Archaeologist and Director of Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Affairs at A Demand for Action, exclusively told IBTimes UK that the Mar Gorgis or George (St George or Markourkas) monastery has been “wiped out” by IS militants.
The building, located on the Ba’werah neighbourhood on a hill north of Mosul on the other side of the Tigris river, was founded by the Assyrian Church of the East on the 10th century but rebuilt as a seminary by the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1846.
“The current monastery was built on an archeological site containing ancient Assyrian ruins. It was an important show of continuity from the Assyrian to our culture,” Yakou said.
“Isis is wiping out the cultural heritage of Iraq. The monastery was classified as cultural heritage. It’s a cultural and ethnic cleansing.”
The report was confirmed by Dureid Hikmat Tobia, adviser for minorities of Ninawah province, in a report on Turkish Anadolou news agency.
Two weeks ago, the jihadist group published a video showing militants destroying artefacts in a Mosul museum and at the Nergal Gate to ancient Nineveh, taking a sledgehammer to artefacts.
The attacks on artefacts and antiquities in Iraq and Syria are carried out in the name of an iconoclastic and strict interpretation of Islamic law. IS draws inspiration from early Islamic history, rejects religious shrines and condemns Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslims as heretics.