Friday, March 29, 2013

(Non)preservation of historical heritage

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have begun dismantling some of the oldest sections of Islam’s most important mosque as part of a highly controversial multi-billion pound expansion.
Muslim silence on this issue isn’t just cowardly, it’s deeply hypocritical. When an obscure group of foam-at-the-mouth Islamophobes got together in the United States to make an utterly pointless and deliberately provocative film about the Prophet Mohammad, or when a group of Danish cartoonists exercised their democratic right to lampoon a religious leader and the creeping self-censorship of the European press, protests broke out around the world.

At Friday prayers, imams and sheikhs wasted little time in giving rousing speeches about how Islam was being sullied and the Prophet insulted. The mobs came out, people died (mostly Muslims).

How many of those imams have bothered to get animated about what has happened in Mecca and Medina? How many are outraged that the house of Muhammad’s first wife Khadijah was pulled down and replaced with a block of public toilets, or that five of the seven mosques marking the Battle of the Trench outside Medina have been destroyed, or that religious police cheered when a mosque linked to the Prophet’s grandson was dynamited? It’s politically a lot more convenient to blame infidels for disrespecting your religion’s founder than it is to point the finger of blame at your own kind.
Is the commentary misplaced?  Maybe Muslims on the whole do not want these historical monuments preserved.   Maybe this is the inevitable price of progress.   Maybe this is what is needed for more Muslims to be able to make the Hajj, which may be more important in the scale of things than historical buildings.

Of course, it leaves the question of why all the conflict over, say, the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya? Is it because it cedes ground to the infidelators?