Reasons Why Islamic State Fanatics Remind Me of Mao’s Red Guards

Red Guards destroy artifacts at the Temple of Confucius in Shandong.
Red Guards destroy artifacts at the Temple of Confucius in Shandong.

When watching the news report showing Islamic State fighters destroying priceless artifacts in a museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, I couldn’t but help have the feeling that I’ve seen this type of vandalism before, just different place, different time.

Before you read on just make sure you view the video, as comparisons are sometimes loaded and I usually try to avoid them to make a point but in this case I feel it’s appropriate.

So I’m presuming you’ve now seen the video and you’d have an understanding why the Islamic State fanatics (also known as ISIS) destroyed the artifacts, some of which were thousands of years old.

The footage of ISIS destroying the artifacts reminded me of another bunch of fanatics who nearly 50 years ago did the same in China during the so-called Cultural Revolution under the orders of Mao Zedong, one of the greatest mass murderers history has seen.

Under Chairman Mao’s orders, fanatical young Red Guards in 1966 began destroying artifacts and religious sculptures on a massive scale.

The carnage was carried on to the extent that most of China’s and Tibet’s cultural heritage was destroyed.

As a way of an example a group of Red Guard students from Beijing Normal University destroyed over 6,000 artifacts and scrolls in the 2,000-plus-year-old Temple of Confucius in Shandong which they also vandalized.

Red Guards destroy artifacts at the Temple of Confucius in Shandong.

Red Guards destroy artifacts at the Temple of Confucius in Shandong.

A Buddha statue is attacked during the Cultural Revolution.

A Buddha statue is attacked during the Cultural Revolution.

Christian statues are smashed during the Cultural Revolution.

Christian statues are smashed during the Cultural Revolution.

Mao’s Red Guards not only destroyed sites of cultural and religious importance in both China and Tibet but they terrorized much of the population and the related chaos resulted in the deaths of an estimated one-and-a-half million people.

“The ten-year campaign destroyed entire families, irreplaceable cultural treasures and centuries-old traditions. In August 1966 alone, about 100 teachers were murdered by their own students in the western section of Beijing,” wrote documentary filmmaker Andreas Lorenz for Spiegel.

The fanatical forces used by Mao were terrifying and he also used them to target “so-called bad elements” which included intellectuals and class enemies.

Just as the Islamic State uses terror to change society into a caliphate, as did Mao to create a communist state. Just as Islamic State massacres innocent people, as did Mao’s fanatics on a massive scale throughout China and Tibet.

An execution scene during the Cultural Revolution, in Harbin, China, 5 April 1968.

An execution scene during the Cultural Revolution, in Harbin, China, 5 April 1968.

The killings weren’t just during the Cultural Revolution, there were worse killings in earlier campaigns and so-called reforms during the 1950s and during the Great Famine in the early 1960s.

Like such periods, the Cultural Revolution was a soul-destroying time for those people inside China’s boarders and it’s distressing that similar fanatical violence and wanton destruction is occurring in the Middle East today.

If you’d like to learn more about the Cultural Revolution, and why it began, this short video below is a good place to start.

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