Finbarr Barry Flood (2002) in his essay "Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm, and the Museum," discussed the concerns and ideas about Islamic iconoclasm. The main focus of the essay is the Muslim's iconoclastic practices in India and Afghanistan. Among the issues discussed in the essay is the traditional patterns of Islamic iconoclasm, its various paradoxes that distort the conventional understanding of Isamic iconoclasm. In definition, iconoclasm is the practice or an iconoclast attitude of opposing the use of images in a religion (Martin 1930, p. 1). Often seen as an act venerating statues and pictures that sacred to a religion. Flood explained iconoclastic conceptions of Muslim essentialist including the political aspects conceived as a theological impulse. Flood's arguments were based on analyzing the Taliban's rationale for destroying the Bamiyan Buddha in 2001 (Flood 2002, pp. 641-642). He argued that the obliteration of the Bamiyan Buddha is an engagement calculated with a specific discourse to cultural images pointing out a particular moment in history.
Flood was able to strongly establish his arguments by explaining the concepts of iconoclasm and providing historical origins of it from Islamic perspectives. Supporting arguments were effectively employed in the essay such as quoting "the inherent temperamental dislike of Semitic races for representational art" by K.A.C. Creswell (as quoted from Flood 2002, p. 641) to justify historical correlation. Iconoclastic praxis and proscriptive texts on the other hand have provided defense to Flood's arguments by citing old scriptures such as the Hadith and common traditions of the prophets (Flood 2002, p. 643). One of the important element that support Flood's argument is the theory that iconoclasm is not culturally and religiously derivative, but a phenomenon arising from an individual's own initiative. This is justified by the passages from the manuscript of an Ottoman writer Evliya Celebi contained in the Persian Book of Kings (Flood 2002, p. 645).
In general, Flood was able to present convincing evidence to establish his point. However, he overemphasizes several points of his argument that may confuse an average reader. Flood was able to put clear emphasis on his point of argument, but too much information to support a single stand quite difficult to digest and at some point the essence of his argument becomes lost. At first, it can easily be concluded that the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha has something to do with the old Islamic iconoclasm. However, it cannot be established until the reader reached the end of the essay and rethink the idea and finally realize that there is no correlation between the two. This is because the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha is part of the Taliban's prerogative and a message of cultural hegemony toward the Western institutions (Mahapatra 2011).
Flood was able to successfully deliver the arguments of his essay by providing significant evidence. His evidence is found at the three sections of the essay, first is within the "Prospective Texts and Iconoclastic Praxis" section. This section draws the historical context of his argument citing examples of vegetal and epigraphical types of religious architectures. For example, Flood described the early Islamic palaces mentioning that they contain anthropomorphic elements (Flood 2002, p. 643). Flood was also able to justify that religion is not the only reason for Islamic iconoclasm by determining the difference between secular from religious art and expressive from instrumental iconoclasm. Image samples of figurationwere included to show materialistic evidence of his claim such as the Princely Feast from the Khamsa of Nizami in Iran showing heads of the human figures being erased (Flood 2002, p. 646). In the Bamiyan and Medieval Afghan Iconoclasm section of the essay. Evidences were presented by means of providing possible links of old iconoclastic practices to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha. Buddhist monastic institutions have settled in the Bamiyan Valley even before the advent of Islam (Flood 2002, p. 648). However, history recalls that the disfiguring of the statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley is already practiced by the Hephtalite ruler Mihirikula because of religion (Flood 2002, p. 648). Centuries later the Buddhist monasteries still attracts the attention of hostile rulers, but this time it is because of the monasteries immense wealth (Flood 2002, p. 651). This evidence substantiate Flood's claim that ancient practices of iconoclasm is not related to the modern phenomenon. It is further substantiated by the discussion on Mullah Omar and Western museum's plea to spare the historical monuments.
Finbarr Barry Flood (2002). Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm, and the Museum. The Art Bulletin. Vol. 84, No. 4., pp.641-659.
E. J. Martin (1930). iconoclasm. A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy. 2, pp.1.
Aurobinda Mahapatra (2011). Oriental Review - Open Dialogue Research Journal [online]. Available from: