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Author Topic: Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas'  (Read 2300 times)
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« on: Sep 24, 2011 05:40 AM »


Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas'

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/mecca-for-the-rich-islams-holiest-site-turning-into-vegas-2360114.html



Historic and culturally important landmarks are being destroyed to make way for luxury hotels and malls, reports Jerome Taylor

Saturday, 24 September 2011
A £690m expansion of the Grand Mosque in Mecca has begun to accommodate an extra 1.2 million pilgrims a year


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.

"No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism," says Dr Irfan al-Alawi who, as executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites. "We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it's not too late to turn things around."

Sami Angawi, a renowned Saudi expert on the region's Islamic architecture, is equally concerned. "This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Mecca and the sacredness of the house of God," he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year. "Both [Mecca and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers."

Dr Alawi's most pressing concern is the planned £690m expansion of the Grand Mosque, the most sacred site in Islam which contains the Kaaba – the black stone cube built by Ibrahim (Abraham) that Muslims face when they pray.

Construction officially began earlier this month with the country's Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Eissa, exclaiming that the project would respect "the sacredness and glory of the location, which calls for the highest care and attention of the servants or Islam and Muslims".

The 400,000 square metre development is being built to accommodate an extra 1.2 million pilgrims each year and will turn the Grand Mosque into the largest religious structure in the world. But the Islamic Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of key historical sites that they believe are now at risk from the ongoing development of Mecca, including the old Ottoman and Abbasi sections of the Grand Mosque, the house where the Prophet Mohamed was born and the house where his paternal uncle Hamza grew up.

There is little argument that Mecca and Medina desperately need infrastructure development. Twelve million pilgrims visit the cities every year with the numbers expected to increase to 17 million by 2025.

But critics fear that the desire to expand the pilgrimage sites has allowed the authorities to ride roughshod over the area's cultural heritage. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.

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.

For ordinary Meccans living in the mainly Ottoman-era town houses that make up much of what remains of the old city, development often means the loss of their family home.

Non-Muslims cannot visit Mecca and Medina, but The Independent was able to interview a number of citizens who expressed discontent over the way their town was changing. One young woman whose father recently had his house bulldozed described how her family was still waiting for compensation. "There was very little warning; they just came and told him that the house had to be bulldozed," she said.

Another Meccan added: "If a prince of a member of the royal family wants to extend his palace he just does it. No one talks about it in public though. There's such a climate of fear."

Dr Alawi hopes the international community will finally begin to wake up to what is happening in the cradle of Islam. "We would never allow someone to destroy the Pyramids, so why are we letting Islam's history disappear?"

Under Threat

Bayt al-Mawlid


When the Wahabis took Mecca in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house where the Prophet Mohammed was born. It was thenused as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by Meccans. There are concerns that the expansion of the Grand Mosque will destroy it once more. The site has never been excavated by archaeologists.

Ottoman and Abasi columns of the Grand Mosque

Slated for demolition as part of the Grand Mosque expansion, these intricately carved columns date back to the 17th century and are the oldest surviving sections of Islam's holiest site. Much to the chagrin of Wahabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet's companions. Ottomon Mecca is now rapidly disappearing

Al-Masjid al-Nawabi

For many years, hardline Wahabi clerics have had their sites set on the 15th century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. Wahabis, however, believe marked graves are idolatrous. A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Masjid".

Jabal al-Nour

A mountain outside Mecca where Mohammed received his first Koranic revelations. The Prophet used to spend long spells in a cave called Hira. The cave is particularly popular among South Asian pilgrims who have carved steps up to its entrance and adorned the walls with graffiti. Religious hardliners are keen to dissuade pilgrims from congregating there and have mooted the idea of removing the steps and even destroying the mountain altogether.
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WCoastbaba
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 24, 2011 06:07 AM »

Salaams - I was just about to post this, lol!

As I've said in the other related thread we had, this is just shameful - also, that the Saud's are chagrined at the fact about the pillars have the names of the Sahabah - and they want to destroy the grave site of our Prophet?Huh?? They want to destroy Jabal al-Noor?Huh?  Yes, we know that graves should not be marked in any overly material fashion, but isn't it there predecessors who made it so? I may be wrong . . also, I don't think people come their to worship as they might in other cases we may hear of at other sites . . .I know akhan bhai has explained this before, but they are just big-headed and arrogant from their words.

I wish someone could overthrow the Saud's - that land should only be called Arabia.  Angry Angry Angry

This just disgusts me and I feel when/if I ever make it over there - there will be nothing left of the old Makkah.

 Sad Sad Sad


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« Reply #2 on: Sep 24, 2011 06:06 PM »

I'll stick to my earlier statement that acts of Bid'ah are rampant at these sites and it is practically impossible to avoid. However, the enthusiasm with which the Wahabis destroy everything is also uncalled for. They're more enthusiastic about enforcing their ideology(which may not be correct at all times) rather than really worrying about deviant practices.

In any case, I'd still stick with them because even if they're doing it for themselves, they'll have to pay the price in the akhirah. But other people will be benefited by not having the chance to sin.

My intention has always been that the entire ummah follows the right path. If it can be achieved in this fashion, then be it.
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 14, 2011 05:24 PM »

Haven't watched it yet, but a discussion about this topic from Al Jazeera's The Stream

The Stream - The Mall of Mecca, or a new era of growth?
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 03, 2011 08:45 PM »

Concern over Saudi heritage site demolitions



Thoughts anyone? well, any new thoughts I should say - I know we've addressed this issue in the above posts.

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« Reply #5 on: Nov 04, 2011 09:38 AM »

No new thoughts bro. I guess, the video speaks for itself, all those people doing things that quite clearly aren't right. I'm all for not demolishing historic sites, but if it does more harm than good then demolition is the better option.
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 04, 2011 08:47 PM »

Salaams - Well, I would love to go visit the cave. I don't think I would do any extra dua' or anything. I mean, in front of the Kaaba is the place for salah and du'a and of course, Mount Arafah. I think I would just like to sit up there and imagine what it must have been like, to see the view of Makkah, like our Rasul did. I mean I can understand they want to touch the surface of the cave, as the Prophet might have touched that stone, but yes, that can go to a point that it too, can become obsessive. My amma and khala are sympathetic to that feeling of wanted to be where the Prophet or touch something he touched, but as long as you don't make it a worship or that you know it is not part of the Hajj (crazy that some people think so - we need to educate!!!).

I understand your view of course, I would hate for such an integral part of our faith be polluted/distorted or tainted by such things that will cause it to lose it's real meaning or sacredness - we have enough of that already . . .

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« Reply #7 on: Nov 05, 2011 03:47 AM »

wsalam,

There's definitely two sides here. We want to protect these historical places for the future. It's so beautiful when you are there and you can contemplate how things were in the past. How sad would it be if they demolished Jabal an-Nur the place of the first revelation and added another high rise building! Just horrible. At the same time people are very ignorant and they do commit a lot of shirk! I mean some of the Hajjis, they are just not educated and all that emotion and sentiment causes them to do wrong things sometimes. There needs to be a way both sides can come together. Like for the Rawdah right now they have guides in all different languages that explain what the Rawdah is and what we should and shouldn't be doing. Once the group is educated they're allowed to go in. Something like that at historical sites would be awesome.

BTW has anyone heard of this secret museum in the basement of the Haram of Madinah!!?
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 05, 2011 06:06 AM »

Salaams - Wow, a secret basement??? That would be something . . this is the first time I'm hearing of it.


Yes, I think you've presented a balanced approach Sis J - I hope that people can be educated, not just before the moment, but early in life, whether it be at an Islamic school or their education they get as they grow up - being raised EDCUATED parents - insha'allah, our and future generations can get the ball rolling on that.

May Allah (swt) Guide us and Help us go in the right direction in this regard. Ameen.


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« Reply #9 on: Nov 05, 2011 04:30 PM »

sis Jannah, I see what you're trying to say - guides and stuff. They used to do that in the earlier days, even for Umrah, people would clip a few centimeters of their hair right at the end of the saee(which is wrong) and there used to be mutawa guys standing there and telling people not to do it. But, now there are so many people that it has become practically impossible. This is during regular time, Hajj is exponentially huge which makes it all the more impossible. Another factor is that even with guides telling people what not to do, some people are plain stubborn, they think their own ideas are the right ones and they continue with the silly things. You can't do anything then. This happens regularly in Madinah, when people are let in front of the Prophet's(S) grave, they make dua over there. Mutawa guys continuously tell the wrongdoers not to do it, sometimes they get scolded, yet, nothing changes. That's the problem.
Even I used to think in the same way that you do, having people to tell others what's right and what's not. But after numerous trips and numerous experiences of shirk happening in front of my eyes, in the holiest places in the world, I realized it's practically impossible and that's when I turned the Wahhabi way Wink
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 05, 2011 08:19 PM »

It is very sad to realize that  real identity of our  holy lands is being deliberately washed away due to  ignorance of few pilgrims.

But if we sit back and use our  farsightedness,it is almost impossible to control the growing shirk and biddah,as the new age has chosen to conveniently explain their act and stand by their method.Makes us remember one of the few signs of khiyamah.

May Allah guide us all to do the right and forgive our sins.Ameen

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« Reply #11 on: Nov 05, 2011 09:27 PM »

Thanks akhan. Maybe it's too ideal to think that we can control such acts, given the number of people and their stubbornness as you said.

I have a question though - when in front of Prophet's mosque, cannot we just do du'a as would do normally even away from it with our hands in front of us? Pray for him and that we hope to meet him in the Hereafter etc? Is that wrong?

I think this older generation or older thinking is that they feel that adding things is "of no harm" but of course, even the smallest gesture, no matter well-intentioned can spiral into an act that is shirk. Anyways, you've said you already seen it which is sad. HAHA, my mom hates the Wahabi way I have to admit.

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« Reply #12 on: Nov 06, 2011 04:00 AM »

Making dua inside the Prophet's(S) mosque is totally acceptable. What I was saying is people do it the deviant way, facing the Prophet's(S) grave and asking him for waseela and forgiveness and blessings. That's plain wrong, it's same stuff people do at dargahs. Whenever you make dua, you're supposed to ask Allah for it, not the Prophet(S) or any other human being inside a grave.

For the second part of your question, praying for him - we recite the salawat all the time which has been prescribed to us. You can do the same in the Prophet's(S) mosque.

Dude, I get called Wahhabi all the time for denouncing the kind of wedding and the kind of rights women have here Grin Culture has overwhelmed so much of Islam that when you try to say something that is right, even with proof, you automatically become a deviant Wahhabi Tongue
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« Reply #13 on: Nov 07, 2011 07:01 AM »

wsalam,

I think there is also a bigger discussion here. In our Ummah we see this all the time. People with certain views try to "force" other people to their views because they believe they are right even when there is leeway. I mean when you think about it why do the police there assume people are praying to the prophet (s), instead of praying for the prophet, or reciting fatiha over a grave or saying other duas which are perfectly legitimate. Also because of the way the haram/rawdah is built people do end up praying towards that direction non?

Let's say a person from some far remote Muslim place has saved up every penny their entire life to go to Hajj, applied since they turned 60 every year and then hit the Hajj lottery at whatever age and after momentous journeys is finally there in front of the prophet (s). The prophet they've loved, that they've been told to love and follow their entire life. And let's say there's a police guy there with a big stick or something hitting him, telling him in Arabic to get away. I mean if I was that guy I'd turn into a star quarterback and believe this is the only chance in my life to get some blessings right!! Why wouldn't you believe that if you were never taught the right things to do.

You just can't force people to do/stop things, you have to teach them. A guy with a big stick is NOT teaching a person btw. I think the Malaysians have the best program. Someone told me they have to take a 3 week class before they go to Hajj. They are taught what to do/not to do and hence are the most well-behaved of the Hajjis.

In the end, destroying the historical/cultural sites of our ummah seems to be a bigger crime if you ask me. It's like if you have a cat and someone abuses the cat, so you kill the cat!! Totally the wrong way to go about it.

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« Reply #14 on: Nov 07, 2011 06:31 PM »

The Saudis don't beat up everybody. The first response is always verbal, and polite too. And they do teach people about what's wrong, but there's not much one can do in a couple of minutes. Another problem is with language, not everybody speaks Arabic and the majority of the religious police speak only Arabic except for a few phrases here and there. But still, going by the kind of experiences I had, I'd stick with the Saudis. One small example..during my last trip, a desi woman walked up to the Maqam Ibraheem, the mutawa standing there told her not to do silly stuff, very politely and in urdu. The moment he turned his back, she was kissing the glass, rubbing her hands over it and wiping her face. So, changing people's beliefs in those few minutes is quite impossible, even if you try to do it nicely.

The Malaysians are the best behaved because they're taught in their country, before they leave, not in the Haram. Then I think it should be the responsibility of the home country to educate its people, not the Saudi police's.
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 09, 2011 03:49 PM »

I'll stick to my earlier statement that acts of Bid'ah are rampant at these sites and it is practically impossible to avoid. However, the enthusiasm with which the Wahabis destroy everything is also uncalled for. They're more enthusiastic about enforcing their ideology(which may not be correct at all times) rather than really worrying about deviant practices.

if you destroy the remnants of early islam, the prophet and so on, after a few decades people will doubt that the prophet actually existed. 

religious muslims live in a cave and don't realize more people are leaving islam than staying with it.  it's very upsetting.   
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« Reply #16 on: Nov 09, 2011 06:17 PM »

Dude, do you think everybody who accepts Islam does so after having a look at the artifacts? I don't think so. Iman doesn't come from material things.
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« Reply #17 on: Nov 13, 2011 04:43 AM »

Here is the Saudi response... ermm I have to wonder what their "traditional architecture" and "makkah style" is??



'Future development of Makkah to be in tune with its heritage'

An aerial view of the Grand Mosque in this file photo. (Reuters)

REUTERS

Published: Nov 10, 2011 01:04 Updated: Nov 10, 2011 01:04

MAKKAH: Future development in the holy city of Makkah will be more in tune with traditional architecture, says Mayor Osama Al-Bar.

The holy city is studded with dozens of yellow and red cranes and metal scaffolding aimed at increasing hotel space and improving facilities to make the annual Haj pilgrimage safer and easier.

As more than 2.5 million Muslims from across the world flood Makkah’s narrow streets for the annual pilgrimage, however, many visitors and residents point to a 600-meter tower surmounted by a huge clock as evidence development has moved too quickly.

“The building regulations in the city take into consideration the width of the streets, central locations and do not allow the building of skyscrapers...what was built was that,” Al-Bar told Reuters when asked about the tower.

Future projects “will be far from the Grand Mosque by 300 meters ... The buildings will have reasonable heights between 8 to 10 floors and will have the Makkah style,” he said.

Within six years, the government hopes to reinforce the infrastructure surrounding Makkah’s Grand Mosque replacing congested narrow roads with new ones, installing footbridges for pedestrians and a four-line metro.

On Tuesday, Crown Prince Naif said the development that had already taken place would “be little compared to what will happen.”

“We want to evolve Makkah, not change it,” said Sami Angawi, founder of Haj Research Center and an expert on Makkah.

“I love Makkah and cannot see the beloved (sanctuary) of the Prophet being handled this way,” said Angawi, who shares a belief with many Muslims that Makkah is a holy place where change must be made in a delicate manner.

Deadly stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have several times caused hundreds of deaths, forcing the government to spend lavishly on new infrastructure.

“For sure (the expansion) will be good for pilgrims because usually there are huge numbers of pilgrims, especially during prayer times,” Ahdab Seif, an Egyptian pilgrim, said outside the Grand Mosque.

“Makkah is known to be an old city ... it has some old haphazard buildings located near the Grand Mosque and this project will reshape the face of Makkah and raise the capacity and services of the city,” Al-Bar said.

“By 2020 we hope that results will be visible as major parts of the projects will be complete,” he said.

Among the announced projects, which will cost more than $30 billion, is a historic expansion of the Grand Mosque to add 400,000 square meters and add shaded areas to shelter worshippers from the scorching desert sun.

A sq foot of land around the Grand Mosque has in some cases reached up to $18,000, Al-Bar said, significantly higher than average prices of around $4,420 in Monaco.

Property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle could not corroborate those prices but confirmed that the land around the Grand Mosque is the most expensive real estate in the world.
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 13, 2011 07:41 AM »

There's no traditional architecture or makkah style. Be ready for malls, hotels and more skyscrapers. When a prince wants something, he'll have it!
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« Reply #19 on: Nov 14, 2011 05:45 AM »

I was afraid of that.

Trying to sound all knowledgeable about architecture to make it sound romantic . . . sheesh.


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« Reply #20 on: Nov 14, 2011 01:58 PM »

I just got a juicy tidbit Grin. We all know that Prince Sultan died of cancer, the new second deputy is Prince Salman who also has cancer and there are quite a few other royals who have cancer. Now people say that the curse of the common man in makkah has led to such high cancer rates in the royal family.
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« Reply #21 on: Nov 14, 2011 04:31 PM »

Wow akhan! Thanks for that . . I don't wish cancer on anyone (has taken several people, including abba, and two of his sisters), yes, not even these people . . but it is Allah's Will in the end . .

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« Reply #22 on: Nov 14, 2011 05:26 PM »

Daddy dearest is in town for a couple of days so I got some latest Saudi gossip Tongue
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« Reply #23 on: Nov 16, 2011 07:17 AM »

A curse or genetics?
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« Reply #24 on: Nov 16, 2011 01:31 PM »

A curse or genetics?
I don't know, but that's the word going around the Kingdom. When they started this construction boom around the Haram, many Saudis lost their land. The authorities promised to compensate them but they haven't done it yet and to top it off, it wasn't at the market rate. That land or whatever building they had there was their bread and butter, now they're businessless and jobless. Small businesses are almost bankrupt because pilgrims can see only designer stuff around the Haram, these small businesses have been relocated elsewhere. The worst - nothing has been done for the common pilgrims. Most of the hotels are 5 star charging at least SR5,000 a night, no common pilgrim can afford that, he still has to walk from afar. So, all in all, the only people who have benefited from all this are the authorities and business tycoons. That's why people think it's a curse.
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