Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wahhabis continues to destroy Islamic heritage

Makkah, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots - the Wahhabis led House of Saud authoritarian government.
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 the millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (may the blessings of Allah be upon him) is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of the Wahhabis whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.

A Saudi architect, Dr Sami Angawi, who is an acknowledged specialist on the region's Islamic architecture, told The Independent - UK newspaper that the final farewell to Makkah is imminent.

"What we are witnessing are the last days of Makkah and Madinah," he said.

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 and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time.

"This is the end of history in Makkah and Madinah and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi.

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

The Wahhabis now have the birthplace of the Prophet in their sights. The site survived redevelopment early in the reign of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud some 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.

Ali al-Ahmad, the head of the organisation, formerly known as the Saudi Institute, said the destruction of Islamic landmarks in Hijaz is the largest in history.

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 it be bulldozed before it could become a pilgrimage site.

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 man-made history of Makkah has gone and now the Makkah 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."

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, Makkah'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.

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