“Iconoclasm” is defined as the action of attacking or assertively rejecting cherished beliefs and institutions of established values and practices through the destruction of religious images or icons, which are considered heretical (9). Icons (“images” in Greek) are small paintings of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the saints, or any combination of these Christian figures (5).
During the Byzantine era, idols were used as an aid to devotion allowing for direct communication with the sacred figure (6). After the reign of Emperor Justinian (527-565), there was a large increase in the use of icon images (5). The first period of Iconoclasm occurred under Emperor Leo III, between 814 and 842 (3). During his reign, the Eastern Roman Empire was under attack by the Arabs (an enemy that opposed any image of God or any living thing in holy places) and the Byzantine Empire lost almost two-thirds of its land, population and wealth (5). These events are thought to have driven Leo III into believing that God was punishing his people for its worship of idols. The use of icons in religious worship was hotly debated, as many believed it was prohibited under the Second Amendment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above…” (5). It is a...
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..., as well as the fact that “Islam faces no challenges [in those countries] except from its own variations” (7). In other words, destruction and vandalism of these historic artworks will not impact or increase their people’s current belief in Islam nor destroy the infidel’s faith in their religion.
Although the historic recurrence of Iconoclasm in the Byzantine era and the more current events in Afghanistan and Iraq have similarities, I believe that the destruction of artifacts by ISIS and the Taliban are truly heinous and should be considered crimes against humanity because they are targeting antiquities that can never truly be replaced to their original form. To quote Joseph Conrad: “History repeats itself, but the special call of an art which has passed away is never reproduced. It is as utterly gone out of the world as the song of a destroyed wild bird” (8).
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