Although the persecution by members of some religions of live human beings, such as Jews and Christians, is certainly more monstrous, attacks on inanimate religious symbols possibly give an even clearer indication of a deadly hate borne for the “other.”
Consider, for instance, extremists desecrating and destroying Christian cemeteries and their crosses. While the act itself is largely “symbolic” — in that no living person gets hurt — it is also reflective of a committed hatred that transcends, say, responding to a physical threat. While the persecution of a Christian can be motivated by particular circumstances — conflicts, sexual attraction, convenience, gain, and so on — attacks on inanimate symbols would seem to reflect a hatred for Christianity and its followers that needs no “reason” and seemingly gains nothing.
From one end of the Middle Eastern world to the other — and in Arab, African and Asian nations, and increasingly in the West — this sort of hate has become a regular occurrence, seemingly “normalized.” A brief list follows, ordered by desecrations committed by formal terrorists, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and similar organizations; informal terrorists, such as religious mobs; and theocratic governments.
Libya: In March 2012, a video of an extremist mob attacking a Commonwealth cemetery near Benghazi, where WWII British officers were buried, appeared on the Internet. As the vandals kick down and destroy headstones with crosses on them, the man videotaping them urges them to “Break the cross of the dogs!” while he and others cry “Allahu Akbar!” At one point, while he tells an overly zealous desecrater to “calm down,” he chuckles. When another member of the mob complains that he is unable to kick down a particular stone, and wonders if it is because “this soldier must have been good to his parents,” the man doing the videotaping replies, “Come on, they are all dogs, who cares?” Finally the mob congregates around the huge Cross of Sacrifice, the cemetery’s cenotaph monument, and starts hammering at it, to more cries of “Allahu Akbar.”
A similar incident occurred in Libya on June 3, 2015: People described by witnesses as extremists destroyed crosses and tombstones and dug up graves in the old Christian section of Tripoli.
Iraq: In April 2015, a group of men affiliated with ISIS desecrated Mosul’s oldest Christian cemetery, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle. ISIS published pictures of its followers using sledgehammers to destroy gravestones and efface the crosses carved on them as documentary evidence of their campaign to “eradicate mushrik[pagan] symbols.”
In November, 2016, a human rights group published photos from the Christian cemetery of Qarqoosh, which was also vandalized by ISIS-supporters. The desecraters also opened coffins and despoiled the dead; one picture shows the snapped off skull of a corpse, who had presumably formerly been resting-in-peace, with crosses hurled around it on the ground.
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