Theater of Cruelty

Cultural War in Saudi Arabia

Why does Saudi Arabia destroy the cultural heritage of Mecca and Medina in peace and quiet?


95 percent of the more than 20-year-old buildings in the Muslim city of Mecca, Mecca, have been leveled over the last 20 years, according to the independent Gulf Think Institute. Only XNUMX buildings remain from Prophet Muhammad's time, and even Muhammad's birthplace is about to become a bulldozer food. "We are witnessing the last days of Mecca and Medina," architect Sami Angawi told The Independent. So where are the Norwegian protests against the cultural heritage?

In 2000, global horror was awakened when the Taliban government in Afghanistan blasted the nearly 2000-year-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan into the air. Political and religious magnitudes in Egypt, Pakistan and Iran protested, and the world community, with the UN organization UNESCO in the lead, did its best to stop the destruction, but to no avail. Is it the disappointment that it was unable to stop the Taliban that has led to the Saudi Arabia regime now conducting cultural destruction that makes the Taliban's crimes look like route-breaking? Or is Saudi Arabia's position as an oil superpower and the US ally leading to the resounding silence?

Saudi Arabia's widespread devastation is carried out in an unholy alliance between Muslim fundamentalists, the tourism industry, the construction industry and the business community. Fundamentalists want to demolish all historic and religious buildings and places that can promote idolatry and "pluralism," while business is in line to fill the void with new hotels, shopping malls, parking garages and skyscrapers. Here we find the explanation for why recently deceased King Fahd demolished the house of Muhammad's grandson, Ali-Oraid. It was not going to be a pilgrimage by any means. Paradoxically, one of the driving forces behind the devastation is the extensive pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca, leading to fierce demand for new hotels and other temporary housing.

We must go back to 1744 to find the roots of this extreme fear of idolatry. Then King Fahd's ancestor, Mohammed bin Saud, entered into an agreement with the religious reformist Mohamed ibn Abdul-Wahab. The Saud family gained greater influence under the Ottoman rule, while the "Wahabists" were given more opportunities to spread their religious ideology. But it was only after Saudi Arabia became an independent state in 1932 that Wahabism became a state religion. Since then, the movement has shown zero understanding of anything that can recall idols, icons and worship of several gods. The paper still carries the death penalty for idolatry in Saudi Arabia.

The doctrine of idolatry is the explanation for why King Fahd was buried in an anonymous tomb, and the thinking goes so far that even the models on the billboards in the country are endowed with conscious flaws such as a missing eye or an over-painted foot. Saudi Wahabists financed the Taliban regime, and Osama bin Laden was also a convinced Wahabist. “Wahabism is the source of the whole problem. They have a tremendous complex towards idolatry and everything connected with Prophet Muhammad, ”Angawi architect tells The Independent.

Why then does not Norway and the rest of the world community protest loudly against vandalism? Moreover, Saudi Arabia is a corrupt dictatorship that faces major changes in the years to come. Demands for increased equality and democratization are almost bound to emerge when two-thirds of the population is under 25, the middle class only grows and 58 percent of students are women. But there is an enormous amount of money and prestige for Norway to stand on good terms with the regime in the OPEC superpower. Crown Prince Haakon and Minister of Oil and Energy Torhild Widvey were recently in the country to condole King Abdullah with King Fahd's death. This summer Kjell Inge Røkke and Aker Kvaerner made their big break in the kingdom, when the company signed a letter of intent that could mean engineering assignments and purchasing services worth 2,7 billion. The Norwegian visitors hardly took the time to talk about archeology and the destruction of cultural monuments, for Norway stands firmly behind the United States' protective military and political hand over Saudi Arabia. Even extensive cultural vandalism does not seem to change the polite relationship.

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