The photos Saudi Arabia doesn't want seen – and proof Islam's most holy relics are being demolished in Mecca
Jerome Taylor ("The Independent," March 15, 2013)
The authorities in
Photographs obtained by The Independent reveal how workers
with drills and mechanical diggers have started demolishing some Ottoman and
Abbasid sections on the eastern side of the Masjid al-Haram in
The building, which is also known as the Grand Mosque, is the holiest site in Islam because it contains the Kaaba – the point to which all Muslims face when praying. The columns are the last remaining sections of the mosque which date back more than a few hundred years and form the inner perimeter on the outskirts of the white marble floor surrounding the Kaaba.
The new photos, taken over the last few weeks, have caused
alarm among archaeologists and come as Prince Charles – a long term supporter
of preserving architectural heritage – flew into
Many of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns in
To accommodate the ever increasing number of pilgrims
heading to the twin holy cities of
While there is little disagreement over the need to expand,
critics have accused the Saudi regime of wantonly disregarding the
archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of Islam’s two holiest cities.
In the last decade
But such a transformation has come at a cost. The
Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of
Many senior Wahabis are vehemently against the preservation of historical Islamic sites that are linked to the profit because they believe it encourages shirq – the sin of idol worshipping.
But Dr Irfan al-Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation which obtained the new photographs from inside the Grand Mosque, says the removal of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns will leave future generations of Muslims ignorant of their significance.
“It matters because many of these columns signified certain
areas of the mosque where the Prophet sat and prayed,” he said. “The historical
record is being deleted. A new Muslim would never have a clue because there’s
nothing marking these locations now. There are ways you could expand
There are signs that King Abdullah has listened to concerns
about the historical destruction of
However key sites are still at risk. The Independent has
obtained a presentation used by the Saudis to illustrate how the expansion of
The Independent asked the Saudi Embassy in