domenica, Ottobre 24

Wahhabism on trial? The architectural transformation, or rather, devolution of Mecca stands testimony to Al Sauds’ capitalistic custodianship

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The architectural transformation, or rather, devolution of Mecca stands testimony to Al Sauds’ capitalistic custodianship. Under the impetus of Nejd bedouins, Mecca has become a hub for venture capitalists and real estate tycoons. Like much of the Islamic faith, both Mecca and Medina have found themselves besieged, their memories defiled by those whose understanding of spirituality is limited to financial projections.

Muslims have looked on aghast as their heritage has been trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Muhammad insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city’s sole raison d’être – a perfect reflection of its masters’ ambitions.

But if Al Saud’s fortune continues to increase to the tune of lucrative business deals and powerful political friendships, the kingdom’s religious legitimacy is standing on quicksand. And if silence has defined the past decades, clerics have joined together with those, Wahhabis labelled apostates – Shia Muslims, to reclaim Islam’s holy sites for the collective. Calls against Al Saud’s rule over Mecca and Medina have now grown both in strength and tenacity, with Muslims increasingly disillusioned before Saudi Arabia’s unfair diktat and management of those cities which were meant as shining symbols of tolerance and equality. September accidents only came to epitomise the rot eating away at the system.

From Al Saud’s drastic pilgrims quotas and shunning of certain nationalities based on political upsets, Muslims have just about had enough of Saudi Arabia’s tantrums. Only this year, Syrians and Yemenis have been barred from hajj. Those sites which God stamped holy, Al Saud have claimed ownership over – as if the divine was yet another commodity to squeeze a profit out of, another mean to belittle and force into submission.

Earlier this September Sheikh Salman Mohammad, the advisor of Egypt’s ministry of endowment broke his office tacit rule of silence by challenging king Salman’s religious legitimacy. He said: “Many mistakes have been made during the Hajj ceremony in recent decades and the bloody Friday incident was not the first case and will not be the last either; therefore, unless a revolution doesn’t take place in the administration and management of the Hajj ceremony in Saudi Arabia, we will witness such incidents in future too.”

Professor Ashraf Fahmi of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, which is associated with the influential Al-Azhar Mosque, an institution kept under the financial and ideological thumb of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, also broke with traditions when he aligned his critic to that of Grand Ayatollah Ja’far Sobhani, a prominent Shia cleric based in Qom (Iran). Fahmi demanded that Saudi Arabia “admit its mistakes” in managing the Hajj pilgrimage. For the first time in centuries – actually since Wahhabism rose its ugly radical head, both Shia and Sunni clerics have come to agree that Al Saud’s claim over Islam’s holy cities can no longer be tolerated, not when it implies the disappearing of Islam’s heritage and spirit.

Could this new tentative alliance, or at least common anger,  mature into a full front attack of Wahhabism altogether and thus translate into a real mobilization against the evil of our modern days – radicalism?


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