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huzefa 02-09-07 07:31 PM

The Destruction of Mecca: how it will really happen
 
The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage
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Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.

It is the same oil-rich orthodoxy that pumped money into the Taliban as they prepared to detonate the Bamiyan buddhas in 2000. And the same doctrine - violently opposed to all forms of idolatry - that this week decreed that the Saudis' own king be buried in an unmarked desert grave.

A Saudi architect, Sami Angawi, who is an acknowledged specialist on the region's Islamic architecture, told The Independent that the final farewell to Mecca is imminent: "What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina."

According to Dr Angawi - who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam's two holiest cities - as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. "This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi.

Mecca is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world. It is home to the Grand Mosque and, along with the nearby city of Medina which houses the Prophet's tomb, receives four million people annually as they undertake the Islamic duty of the Haj and Umra pilgrimages.

The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods.

As John R. Bradley notes in his new book Saudi Arabia Exposed, the practice of idolatry in the kingdom remains, in principle at least, punishable by beheading. And Bradley also points out this same literalism mandates that advertising posters can and need to be altered. The walls of Jeddah are adorned with ads featuring people missing an eye or with a foot painted over. These "deliberate imperfections" are the most glaring sign of an orthodoxy that tolerates nothing which fosters adulation of the graven image. Nothing can, or can be seen to, interfere with a person's devotion to Allah.

"At the root of the problem is Wahhabism," says Dr Angawi. " They have a big complex about idolatry and anything that relates to the Prophet."

The Wahhabists now have the birthplace of the Prophet in their sights. The site survived redevelopment early in the reign of King Abdul al-Aziz ibn Saud 50 years ago when the architect for a library there persuaded the absolute ruler to allow him to keep the remains under the new structure. That concession is under threat after Saudi authorities approved plans to " update" the library with a new structure that would concrete over the existing foundations and their priceless remains.

Dr Angawi is the descendant of a respected merchant family in Jeddah and a leading figure in the Hijaz - a swath of the kingdom that includes the holy cities and runs from the mountains bordering Yemen in the south to the northern shores of the Red Sea and the frontier with Jordan. He established the Haj Research Centre two decades ago to preserve the rich history of Mecca and Medina. Yet it has largely been a doomed effort. He says that the bulldozers could come "at any time" and the Prophet's birthplace would be gone in a single night.

He is not alone in his concerns. The Gulf Institute, an independent news-gathering group, has publicised what it says is a fatwa, issued by the senior Saudi council of religious scholars in 1994, stating that preserving historical sites "could lead to polytheism and idolatry".

Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the organisation, formerly known as the Saudi Institute, said: "The destruction of Islamic landmarks in Hijaz is the largest in history, and worse than the desecration of the Koran."

Most of the buildings have suffered the same fate as the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of the Prophet, which was identified and excavated by Dr Angawi. After its discovery, King Fahd ordered that it be bulldozed before it could become a pilgrimage site.

"The bulldozer is there and they take only two hours to destroy everything. It has no sensitivity to history. It digs down to the bedrock and then the concrete is poured in," he said.

Similarly, finds by a Lebanese professor, Kamal Salibi, which indicated that once-Jewish villages in what is now Saudi Arabia might have been the location of scenes from the Bible, prompted the bulldozers to be sent in. All traces were destroyed.

This depressing pattern of excavation and demolition has led Dr Angawi and his colleagues to keep secret a number of locations in the holy cities that could date back as far as the time of Abraham.

The ruling House of Saud has been bound to Wahhabism since the religious reformer Mohamed Ibn abdul-Wahab signed a pact with Mohammed bin Saud in 1744. The combination of the al-Saud clan and Wahhab's warrior zealots became the foundation of the modern state. The House of Saud received its wealth and power and the hardline clerics got the state backing that would enable them in the decades to come to promote their Wahhabist ideology across the globe.

On the tailcoats of the religious zealots have come commercial developers keen to fill the historic void left by demolitions with lucrative high-rises.

"The man-made history of Mecca has gone and now the Mecca that God made is going as well." Says Dr Angawi. "The projects that are coming up are going to finish them historically, architecturally and environmentally," he said.

With the annual pilgrimage expected to increase five-fold to 20 million in the coming years as Saudi authorities relax entry controls, estate agencies are seeing a chance to cash in on huge demand for accommodation.

"The infrastructure at the moment cannot cope. New hotels, apartments and services are badly needed," the director of a leading Saudi estate agency told Reuters.

Despite an estimated $13bn in development cash currently washing around Mecca, Saudi sceptics dismiss the developers' argument. "The service of pilgrims is not the goal really," says Mr Ahmed. "If they were concerned for the pilgrims, they would have built a railroad between Mecca and Jeddah, and Mecca and Medina. They are removing any historical landmark that is not Saudi-Wahhabi, and using the prime location to make money," he says.

Dominating these new developments is the Jabal Omar scheme which will feature two 50-storey hotel towers and seven 35-storey apartment blocks - all within a stone's throw of the Grand Mosque.

Dr Angawi said: "Mecca should be the reflection of the multicultural Muslim world, not a concrete parking lot."

Whereas proposals for high-rise developments in Jerusalem have prompted a worldwide outcry and the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan buddhas was condemned by Unicef, Mecca's busy bulldozers have barely raised a whisper of protest.

"The house where the Prophet received the word of God is gone and nobody cares," says Dr Angawi. "I don't want trouble. I just want this to stop."

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Normally I usually let stuff like this go as just another part of life, but after reading this and the other post on Saudi Arabia, I'm really pissed off. There are some Muslims who are violently opposed to even a minor reconstruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem which, from the looks of it, will not change the mosque itself cosmetically or otherwise. Yet these same fanatics have no problem with destroying their own heritage (including the grave of the Prophet Mohammed himself) to calm their misguided fears. If there was any need for further proof that Wahhabism is malignant for Islam, here it is. As a Muslim myself, it saddens me immensely that people who hold such sway over the holiest of places have brains the size of peanuts.

Venusian 02-09-07 07:56 PM

The qibla to Kaaba always suggested idolatry to me, but probably because I never understood it

Bushdog 02-09-07 08:23 PM

That's a shame about Mecca. I guess I don't understand their logic, but then I agree that Wahhabism is trouble. Most of the world, Muslim, Jew or Christian benefit from learning about and preserving this history.

As to Al-Aqsa and the bridge, it is minor, but it is the Jews doing it, thus the problems. To be fair, Israel is handling the bridge construction quite poorly and playing in to the hands of the anti-Israel types.

al_bundy 02-09-07 09:29 PM

more things change the more they stay the same. the idolotry conflict has been in this area for almost 2000 years

VinVega 02-09-07 10:11 PM

In some ways it's a shame that the Ottoman Empire fell. They were much more like the West than the current crop in the ME. We're still picking up the pieces from that collapse today.

The religious radicalism in the ME has been a detriment to both the West and the people of the ME.

huzefa 02-09-07 11:13 PM


Originally Posted by Venusian
The qibla to Kaaba always suggested idolatry to me, but probably because I never understood it

That's easily explained; we pray towards the Kaaba; not to it.

DVD Polizei 02-09-07 11:36 PM

And people wonder on this forum why I have been so anti-Saudi Arabia. This country is a cancer to the entire world. Saudi Arabia believes in two types of people. The righteous and the evil. Sad to say the US has begun to take that shape too. Hopefully this will change with new leaders in office.

Ranger 02-10-07 12:50 AM

Kind of funny since I had recently asked my sister's boyfriend, who is from Egypt, what he had to say about Saudi Arabia in terms of history, culture, and education compared with Egypt.

This is basically what he had to say - The Saudis have no real history. Their only history is that they were bedouin tribes who became super-rich after finding oil while on the other hand, Egypt has a rich history that goes back 7,000 years.

Then he went on to say that Egypt has no religious police like the Saudis do. Egypt has film festivals, nude beaches, night clubs, opera, nobel prize winners in peace and chemistry while the Saudis have none of these.

But that's all off-topic anyway. :)

So commercial development has infected Mecca. It has infected a lot of places. Not sure why they don't care - could be apathy, fear, greed.

DVD Polizei 02-10-07 12:55 AM

You have to be apathetic to be greedy. And when you are greedy, fear is also a natural by-product. Wealthy Saudis know they could be taken over at any moment and they would be hung by their rich robes. But that's why the US is hanging around by a leash--to keep those who would wish to take out the Saudi Regime, restrained.

Ky-Fi 02-10-07 10:07 AM

But I think the crux of the issue is that the Saudi government is more liberal than much of the population. That's largely why the US has supported the House of Saud---because the alternative is a REALLY hardcore theocracy. As I understand it, the House of Saud has stayed in power largely because of an agreement with the Saudi religious establishment, whereby the relgious establishment has control over certain areas of society, and the royal family has control over others. Remember, one of Bin Laden's main greivances has always been that Saudi royal family is far too liberal, Western and tolerant of infidels' presence in their holy land.

I remember seeing a PBS documentary where one of the Saudi royal family was talking about how he used to be close friends with the Shah of Iran, and they wrote lots of letters back and forth. The Saudi guy said that the Shah was constantly urging him to follow Iran's lead, and that the Saudis should liberalize and Westernize their society more like Iran was doing---and the Saudi guy said that he knew that his society wouldn't accept many of those liberalizations. And of course, what the Saudi guy was implying was that that policy was what led to the Shah's downfall, and if Saudi Arabia HAD followed the Shah's lead, then Saudi Arabia would have gone down the same path as Iran.

I think that's a huge mistake that many in the West make---to think that because some of these populations hate corrupt, autocratic regimes like the Shah, Saddam, the House of Saud, Mubarik, Musharref---then that means that they hate those autocratic regimes for the same reasons that a liberal Westerner would. That's the mistake the Bush made underlying the whole Iraq war, IMO. I think people in the West want to think that we have to choose between suppporing a corrupt autocrat. or a benevolent, democratic ruler (who sometimes MAY be slightly less hospitable to US interests). The real choices in some of these countries may actually only be either supporting a corrupt autocrat, or an extremist theocracy. Of course we could just not support either, but that hasn't worked too well for us in Iran the last 20 years.

I totally agree that Saudi Wahabbism is the wellspring of much of the violent, radical Islamist thought throughout the world. It's Saudi oil money that's financing most of the radical textbooks and schools throughout the world. And man, how much more Orwellian can you get than actually physically destroying the history of potentially competing ideologies as they're doing in Mecca. The only fundamental solution I can see to this from an American point of view is drastically reducing our oil dependancy---there's simply no way this ideology would have spread the way it has without the billions of US dollars being paid to the Saudis by the US consumer.

DVD Polizei 02-10-07 10:19 AM

The Sauds are very good with portraying themselves as "progressive" to the world media but you can tell this is just bullshit because of the stories which come out of that country pertaining to laws and religious persecution. The only reason the US assists SA is because of one thing, and we know what that three-letter word is. The US doesn't support SA because of their wonderful humanitarian behavior. And if that is a reason, then we as US citizens need to think about who we currently have in power because if the US has no problems with SA's behavior, then who's to say we won't have that form of behavior over here. Our current administration demonstrated similar behavior by telling its citizens if you didn't go along, you were the enemy.

Ky-Fi 02-10-07 10:25 AM


Originally Posted by Ranger
Kind of funny since I had recently asked my sister's boyfriend, who is from Egypt, what he had to say about Saudi Arabia in terms of history, culture, and education compared with Egypt.

This is basically what he had to say - The Saudis have no real history. Their only history is that they were bedouin tribes who became super-rich after finding oil while on the other hand, Egypt has a rich history that goes back 7,000 years.

Well, nlot to get all lefty PC, as I usually do on this forum :lol: , but I think that's a bit dehumanizing. I don't think it really matters whether or not a culture was a bedouin tribe or if they built the pyramids, they still "have a real history". I tend to think cultures should be judged on the values they're currently supporting.

eXcentris 02-10-07 11:11 AM


Originally Posted by Ranger
So commercial development has infected Mecca. It has infected a lot of places. Not sure why they don't care - could be apathy, fear, greed.

Heck, just look at how much of their history and culture the Chinese are destroying in the name of "progress".

kvrdave 02-10-07 12:28 PM


Originally Posted by eXcentris
Heck, just look at how much of their history and culture the Chinese are destroying in the name of "progress".

That's the truth.

I use to have a rough idea that the real answer to stopping terrorism would be to announce to the world that we would nuke Mecca if we were attacked on our soil again. I figured that they would not risk that. Turns out I would probably have been helping them out. Odd.

OldDude 02-10-07 01:08 PM

Kvrdave is a Wahhabist? Damn! :lol:

bhk 02-10-07 03:27 PM


Originally Posted by Venusian
The qibla to Kaaba always suggested idolatry to me, but probably because I never understood it

Many Hindus think that it is the remnant of a Shiv Ling.

Originally Posted by Originally Posted by eXcentris
Heck, just look at how much of their history and culture the Chinese are destroying in the name of "progress".

I'm sure their last thoughts as they were dying of starvation was: "At least our history and culture will be preserved."

I know what you mean, just giving you a hard time.


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