Mecca Plan for Luxury Malls, Palace Sparks Outrage

Mecca Plan for Luxury Malls, Palace Sparks Outrage

In Mecca, rapid new construction has already destroyed hundreds of historic monuments. Now, reports the Independent, even the site where Mohamed is said to have been born is about to be replaced by a huge royal palace.

The multi-year, multi-billion dollar project centers around the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque to increase its capacity to handle the millions of pilgrims who come to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.

But many are shocked at the destruction of hundreds of historic buildings and monuments to make way for the Grand Mosque’s expansion. According to the Washington-based Gulf Institute, some 95 per cent of Mecca’s 1,000 year-old buildings have already been destroyed, slated for replacement by luxury hotels, apartments, and shopping malls.

Dr. Irfan Alawi of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, one of the few voices to dare publicly oppose the destruction, said that even the House of Mawlid, believed to be where Mohamed was born in AD570, is likely to be destroyed before the end of the year. It will be replaced by a new royal palace to be built for King Abdullah, the formal custodian of the mosque, for his visits to Mecca.

Many critics of the construction process are unwilling to come forward publicly for fear of being targeted by the regime.

There is a religious component to the destruction of the historic buildings. In the strict Wahhabi version of Islam under which Saudi Arabia is ruled, worship of any object or saint is prohibited as being idolatrous, a rule taken very seriously by the Saudis even for buildings with religious-historical significance.

The area of the House of Mawlid has now been closed to pilgrims. Signs on the building warn worshippers against praying. “There is no proof that Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) was born in this place, so it is forbidden to make this place specific for praying, supplicating or get blessing [sic],” it says.

According to Dr. Alawi, religious police are posted outside the house to prevent worshipping. “The site of the Prophet’s birthplace has again come under imminent threat of being permanently forgotten under concrete and marble,” Dr. Alawi said.

He explained that round-the-clock construction is vastly expanding the mosque and the palace. “They have finished the expansion on one side of the mosque. The royal palace, which will be five times bigger than the current royal palace, is to be built into the side of a mountain and will overlook the mosque.

“Between now and December the library and the rooms of the House of Mawlid are likely be built over. It’s inevitable that it will happen. It will be history. It will be gone. We are saying, ‘Let us excavate that house and preserve these rooms that are still there’.”

Wahhabi hardliners have even suggested removing Mohamed’s tomb in Medina to prevent it from becoming an object of worship. But other Middle East Muslims rebelled against that suggestion, forcing a denial from the Saudi authorities that such plans were being considered.