On my bookshelf

Simon Cane
Simon Cane
The Politics of Iconoclasm: Religion, Violence and the Culture of Image-Breaking in Christianity and Islam by James Noyes

The rise of Islamic State, and all the depressing images of the destruction of historic sites that have appeared on our news channels, has resulted in a western view that these acts are mindless vandalism.

It is, of course, more complicated, with numerous cultural, political and religious factors at work. Noyes’s book provides an insightful and informative guide to what is really going on.

The author reminds us that the destruction of cultural material is not an exclusively Islamic activity.

He leads the reader on a journey through the acts of iconoclasm in Calvinism and Wahhabism, European decadence, revolution and war, and ends on Islamic Iconoclasm today with case studies of the Bamiyan Buddhas and Abraj Al-Bait in Mecca.

It can only help to develop a more nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding the urge to smash things up. The publisher has released the book in paperback with an updated preface that takes into account recent events in Iraq and Syria.

Simon Cane is the director of public and cultural engagement at UCL

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