Al-Azhar denounces Baalshamin temple destruction
Men use sledgehammers on a toppled statue in a museum at a location said to be Mosul in this still image taken from an undated video - REUTERS

CAIRO: Al-Azhar denounced the destruction of “Arab heritage,” after the Islamic State group (IS) reportedly blew up the Baalshamin Temple in Palmyra, Syria, a fifth-century Saint Elian monastery, and beheaded keeper of Palmyra Khaled al-Asaad, according to a Monday statement.

“Al-Azhar emphasizes the sanctity of human and cultural heritage, stressing on that the deliberate destruction of monuments by Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) are nothing but desperate attempts to obliterate the civilizational, cultural and historical landmarks of Arabs bad Muslims, serving malicious colonial agendas,” the statement read.

The most prestigious religious institution in the Islamic world called on the world to set strategies to protect archeological sites in the Arab world against the “criminality of terrorist organizations that try to empty the Arab and Islamic world of its civilizational and cultural heritage.”

Syrian activists and officials have reported that IS blew up several sites in Palmyra; contrary to mainstream Muslim scholars, IS claims that such sites are symbolic of apostasy, although it has reportedly been implicated in trafficking antiquities.

Established in 970, Al-Azhar has slammed the ideology and actions of IS and has held several international meetings to combat “extremist ideologies.”

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