“ The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage,” by , The Independent, 6 August 2005, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article304029.ece (from Radio Active Chief through Jim River Report).
Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.
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 millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.
Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.
Many commentators call Mecca “the most holy city in Islam.” The Wahabis would call that idolatry. And kill anyone who believes that.
The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.
The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists’ 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 practice of idolatry in Saudi Arabia remains, in principle at least, punishable by beheading. This same literalism mandates that advertising posters can and need to be altered. The walls of Jeddah are adorned with ads featuring people deliberately missing an eye or with a foot painted over. These contrived imperfections are the most glaring sign of an orthodoxy that tolerates nothing which fosters adulation of the graven image. Nothing can, or can be seen to, interfere with a person’s devotion to Allah.
Update: More thoughts at Riding Sun.