Daesh cares not for humans or stones; both are worthy only of death and destruction. Its only concern is to display that death and destruction. On Wednesday, Daesh blew up Mosul’s Grand Al-Nuri Mosque and its famous leaning minaret. That the mosque was historical is another reason why it was destroyed. Daesh hates every piece of antiquity and history.
As it faces military defeat, its destruction of the mosque is symbolic because it was where Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared himself “caliph” in 2014. Since then, the mosque has been associated with this man who threatens the whole world. Daesh has no morals. It burns the earth and its people in cold blood.
It blew up the mosque when it realized it was about to lose control. The mosque’s historical value to Muslims is why Al-Baghdadi chose it to declare his “caliphate.” It is also why Daesh does not want the mosque associated with its defeat. But Daesh’s image and existence do not depend on Al-Baghdadi or any other individual, which is why his reported killing in a Russian raid does not seem important.
Victory against Daesh will not be complete unless the root causes that produced it are addressed; this has not happened yet.
He is marginal even though he is Daesh’s leader. He is not Osama Bin Laden of Al-Qaeda, or Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi does not seem to have the practical value that they did. He just met a group of former Iraqi army officers at Camp Bucca in Basra, and they decided to form Daesh’s leadership and felt the need for the image of a preacher. Al-Baghdadi remained only an image.
The war on Daesh is partly a war on image. Destroying the mosque will not preserve Al-Baghdadi’s already-faint image. But victory over Daesh and its image will not happen unless the root causes that produced it are addressed; this has not happened yet.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.