Feature

Saudi Arabia: Razing the holiest sites of Islam

Saudi authorities are obliterating the ancient monuments from the early days of Islam.

Jerome TaylorThe Independent (U.K.)

Saudi authorities are obliterating the ancient monuments from the early days of Islam, said Jerome Taylor. Over the last decade, Mecca has been “transformed from a dusty desert pilgrimage town into a gleaming metropolis of skyscrapers” filled with shopping malls and fancy hotels. Some development was necessary to accommodate the millions of tourists who make the hajj each year. But the cost has been immense. A horrifying 95 percent of Mecca’s oldest buildings—those more than 1,000 years old—have been demolished. In recent months, the destruction has moved to the very birthplace of Islam, the Grand Mosque, where the Prophet Mohammed prayed. Photographs obtained by this newspaper show that most of the beautiful columns are gone, including the one that marks the spot where Muslims believe Mohammed began a miraculous journey to Jerusalem and heaven on a winged horse. Most Saudi clerics don’t care. Wahhabis are “vehemently against the preservation of historical Islamic sites” because they think it encourages the sin of idol worship. Some Saudis, though, are fighting to preserve the historical record and begging King Abdullah to intercede. They’ll have to act fast. Next up for demolition: the house where Mohammed was born. 

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