Over the last week or so there has been a frankly demented outcry over some prospective Lib Dem (yeah, I know) tweeting an image from the rather tame Jesus and Mo online comic. Apparently over 20,000 signed a petition and there have been the predictable death threats. Always with the death threats..
In Saudi Arabia this has been happening.
Under Saudi rule, it has been estimated that since 1985 about 95% of Mecca’s historic buildings, most over a thousand years old, have been demolished.
Historic sites of religious importance which have been destroyed by the Saudis include five of the renowned “Seven Mosques” initially built by Muhammad’s daughter and four of his “greatest Companions”: Masjid Abu Bakr, Masjid Salman al-Farsi, Masjid Umar ibn al-Khattab, Masjid Sayyida Fatima bint Rasulullah and Masjid Ali ibn Abu Talib.
It has been reported that there now are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of Muhammad. Other buildings that have been destroyed include the house of Khadijah, the wife of Muhammad, demolished to make way for public lavatories; the house of Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s companion, now the site of the local Hilton hotel; the house of Muhammad’s grandson Ali-Oraid and the Mosque of abu-Qubais, now the location of the King’s palace in Mecca; Muhammad’s birthplace, demolished to make way for a library; and the Ottoman-era Ajyad Fortress, demolished for construction of the Abraj Al Bait Towers.
Now, note the Braj Al Bait Towers. Here is a picture of the monstrosity which looks like something Stalin might have thought of after watching Tim Burton’s Batman. Here it is.
Lovely isn’t it? It of course houses a five star hotel and a twenty(!) storey shopping mall. A small note of interest is that the prime contractors were the Saudi binLaden Group. A more significant note of interest is that if you look right at the bottom that is the Masjid al-Haram – the Great Mosque and the site of the Kaaba and the global focus of Islam. Amazing. Apparently this vandalism of history is much the same in Medina and I suppose elsewhere. Can you even begin to imagine such whole scale destruction of Christian heritage*? Oh, we’ve had our moments (the puritans, Luftwaffe, RAF and Red Army spring to mind as do post WWII civil planners). But really this is on a different scale all together. Can you even begin to imagine the likes of an agnostic like moi deciding to build a fucking ASDA on the site of St. Cuthbert’s Tomb in Durham Cathedral? No you can’t because I wouldn’t. And dear Gods! I would not stand alone.
You know I would not let it happen. And I have a tyre iron. I found it in the shed. I find useful things in sheds.
Anyway… There is a thread to this. It is shirk. This is the Islamic concept of idolatory… So no saints, no shrines, nothing but the Kaaba overshadowed by the third tallest building on the planet. That is the Saudi excuse. They are salafists which means they are gits. What of the other Muslims? The ones who don’t feel like this? Where are they? They can go mental over a pizzeria in Gaza but this is their foundation destroyed by the House of Saud, the self-proclaimed “Guardians” of Islam. And let’s talk turkey here. Is this really shirk? Or is it not just money? You looked at the cost of the Hajj recently? In a five star hotel? I can’t believe we give them the time of day let alone sell them Eurofighter Tiffies. I wouldn’t trust them with a box of matches.
No, I’m seriously pissed off. At some level heritage comes with a cost. The cost is looking after it and not building a khazi there. Ultimately I guess this is self-defeating. How can a culture stand if it, in a cavalier manner, demolishes it’s ancient built environment? And indeed does so because of a single (though growing) strand of fundamentalism. Most of the planet’s 1+ billion Muslims would regard this as pillage. I agree. It is time to stand. It is time for all to stand. Actually it is past it really but we can but try.
Just a final point. Following the 1967 war the Israeli’s captured East Jerusalem. They considered dynamiting the Dome of the Rock – the third holiest site in Islam – where Muhammed entered Heaven. They did not do this. The Saudis have done much worse. The Saudis have wrecked more Islamic stuff than Israel ever did or could. Why then do the Jews get the stick for it? Why not Saudi?
I think we know why. The Saudis have a magic cheque book and are knee-deep in petrol.
*It goes without saying that pre-Islamic sites, both extant and archaeological have been destroyed.