[Update (25th July 2014): on the 24th of July, the Islamic State destroyed the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah – indeed, the entire Mosque of the Prophet Yunus. This blog post accurately debunks a piece of propaganda that claimed its destruction before.]
There are spreading reports that the Islamic State (1) has destroyed Prophet Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq). But the site in the video is not Prophet Jonah’s tomb, and may not even be in Iraq.
The spread of the story
Though it has been claimed since the 18th of June, perhaps the first detailed claim was on the 4th of July, when Iraqi News reported that IS had ‘dug up [the] grave of Prophet Younis (biblical Jonah) in Mosul’ (which it updated with Sadrist Iraqi Haider’s version of the video from the 7th of July); on the 5th of July, Panorama Middle East (بانوراما الشرق الاوسط) shared the earliest (2) Arabic-language-titled video that claimed that the Islamic State had exhumed Prophet Younis’s tomb in Nineveh (3). [Update (19th July 2014): On the 8th of July, the Shoebat family embedded the Arabic-language-titled video in an English-language post; then, apocalyptic Christian Pastor Paul Begley incited a clash of civilisations as he displayed the Shia Post image.] On the 9th of July, YouTube NewsHD and Joni Masni shared the first English-language-titled video that claimed that IS had smashed Prophet Jonah’s tombstone (4). The story spread far more widely when the Daily Mail reported it.
Obviously, other media churned out virtual copies of these reports.
Expert media managers in a social media fail?
Ninawa police spokesman Major Ahmed al-Obaidi had told Mawtani that the tomb had been destroyed on the 15th of June. But why would the Islamic State wait three weeks to provide evidence of its destruction, when it released brochures to advertise its demolition of other shrines and mosques? Moreover, the place in the video does not resemble the tomb in
pilgrims’ [soldiers’] photographs in any way whatsoever.
[Update (11th July 2014): The original source of the above photo is the Blackfive military blog: soldiers from the 2nd Military Transition Team of the U.S. Army and the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Army visited the Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, ‘to replace the long lost whale tooth [replica]’ on the 30th of November 2008. This conclusively proves that the video does not show Islamic State destruction of the Tomb of Prophet Jonah.]
Iraq? Syria? Iraq?
But even then (and even if we assume that the room was first stripped of all of its furnishings), the room in the video is the wrong length and width to be the room in the photo; there are fewer, more widely-spaced tombs in the room in the photo; the room in the video does not have arches, and it has a stream of light where there should be an arch; even the paint is different. If nothing else, as Chuck Jones noted, the tombs broke ‘like they [were] made of cement‘.
While this appears to confirm Nineveh mayor Bashar al-Kiki’s denials (of this violence at that time), the video still demonstrates that the fighters have destroyed some tombs. It is difficult to take comfort in the fact that they destroyed tombs other than those first feared.
1: the Islamic State is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Da’ish, Da’esh or Da’ash.
2: an even earlier video may have been shared under a different name (excluding the Arabic for “Prophet Jonah”) or on a different service.
3: Daash exhumed the tomb of Younis, the Prophet of Allah peace be upon him, in Mosul [داعش تنبش قبر نبي الله يونس عليه السلام في الموصل] (Panorama Middle East, YouTube, 5th July 2014).
4: Daash exhumed the tomb of the Prophet of Allah peace be upon him Younis in Mosul (Joni Masni, YouTube, 9th July 2014).