Egypt Islamic body condemns ISIS destruction of heritage

CAIRO (AFP) - The Egyptian body which rules on Islamic law on Friday condemned the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) destruction of Iraqi artefacts, saying the Prophet Muhammad's own companions had never demolished ancient heritage.

The Dar al-Ifta, whose rulings are sought by Muslims from around the world, said the extremists' videotaped smashing of ancient statues at the Mosul museum in northern Iraq showed their ignorance of the teachings of the faith.

"Such antiquities are to be found in all of the countries conquered by Muslims, but the prophet's companions did not order their destruction or even authorise anything approaching it," the body ruled.

"Some of the prophet's companions even came to Egypt... and discovered the Pyramids, the Sphinx and other remains but they did not issue fatwas (religious edicts) against these antiquities, which have immense historical value."

In the extremists' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a material corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognising other objects of worship than God.

Their views are marginal however and most clerics, even those who promote a rigorist Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the prophet are now part of cultural heritage.