Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mecca for the Rich: Islam's Holiest Site 'Turning into Vegas'

Jerome Taylor
The Independent
September 25, 2011.

Historic and culturally important landmarks are being destroyed to make way for luxury hotels and malls.

Behind closed doors – in places where the religious police cannot listen in – residents of Mecca are beginning to refer to their city as Las Vegas, and the moniker is not a compliment.

Over the past 10 years the holiest site in Islam has undergone a huge transformation, one that has divided opinion among Muslims all over the world. 

Once a dusty desert town struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims arriving for the annual Hajj, the city now soars above its surroundings with a glittering array of skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury hotels. 

To the al-Saud monarchy, Mecca is their vision of the future – a steel and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases their national pride. 

Yet growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have looked on aghast as the nation's archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Mohamed insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city's raison d'être. 

Few are willing to discuss their fears openly because of the risks associated with criticising official policy in the authoritarian kingdom. And, with the exceptions of Turkey and Iran, fellow Muslim nations have largely held their tongues for fear of of a diplomatic fallout and restrictions on their citizens' pilgrimage visas. Western archaeologists are silent out of fear that the few sites they are allowed access to will be closed to them.

But a number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia's remaining historical sites is closing fast.  

... The destruction has been aided by Wahabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that has served as the kingdom's official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power across the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century. 

In the eyes of Wahabis, historical sites and shrines encourage "shirq" – the sin of idolatry or polytheism – and should be destroyed. When the al-Saud tribes swept through Mecca in the 1920s, the first thing they did was lay waste to cemeteries holding many of Islam's important figures. They have been destroying the country's heritage ever since. Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are related to Islam. 

Those circling the Kaaba only need to look skywards to see the latest example of the Saudi monarchy's insatiable appetite for architectural bling. At 1,972ft, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, opened earlier this year, soars over the surrounding Grand Mosque, part of an enormous development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them. 

To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it. At the other end of the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet's first wife Khadijah has been turned into a toilet block. The fate of the house he was born in is uncertain. Also planned for demolition are the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns which dare to contain the names of the Prophet's companions, something hardline Wahabis detest ...

Read the rest here.

Comment: Islam and its holy cities need to be liberated from the grimy oiled hands of the al-Saud monarchy.

Forget what the West thinks about Islam and Muslims.  The Saudis pose a greater threat to the long-term well being of Islam and Muslims.

Shirq my ass.

And we are not free.



Kweli said...

Eish, I'm speechless after reading this one.

What wouldn't these idiots do? If they could, they would put coin slots on the Kaaba itself. Maybe they've even done that.

Ridwan said...

Yeah brother it is a disgrace and it has been going on since the Saud's came to be the custodians of Islam's holy sites.

The bright news, however, is that the King has given women the right to vote in a country that is not even remotely a democracy.

Now if a woman had to drive herself to the polls in 2015 she would be SOL - not legal.

More mundanely if a woman wanted a hamburger she would have to get a man (even a boy) to broker the transaction.

What a joke hey? But so many Muslims are too scared to raise their voices and say what must be said - well being busy with worrying about their salvation.

I trust you well chief.