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Op-Ed: Expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi — Holy sites to be razed

By Ernest Dempsey     Oct 30, 2012 in World
Medina - Saudi Arabia is about to start expansion of Medina’s holy mosque Masjid an-Nabawi soon which may raze holy sites, possibly including Prophet Mohammad’s grave.
Fundamentalist Muslims usually don’t waste a minute in labeling people of other faiths blasphemers when a piece of paper with text reprinted from Koran is burnt. But when people of their faith destroy the sacred sites, which are respected for their value due to association with caliphs and the Prophet, there is a notable silence on all sides.
Take for example Saudi Arabia’s new expansion plan for Islam’s second most sacred site – Masjid an-Nabawi, the mosque in Medina where Prophet Mohammad is buried. Reportedly, the Saudi government has ordered the expansion of the mosque and it will require razing three of the world’s oldest mosques that stand next to it and are also considered sacred by Muslims all over the world. In September last month, The Frontier Post reported that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah initiated the expansion project for the mosque which will cost 25 billion SAR. The paper’s report informed that the project will make room for another1.2 million worshippers to come and pray at the mosque. However, there was no mention of how the project will affect the surroundings of the mosque.
In its 26th October edition, The Independent revealed that the project means to expand the mosque toward the west where the tombs of Islam’s Prophet Mohamamd and his two successors, caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, are located. The paper reported that this kind of thoughtless expansion has already started causing concern among some Muslim academics and only a few of them are ready to speak against the kingdom’s authoritarian government. Dr Irfan al-Alawi was quoted saying that the Saudi authorities “want to knock it all down.” As told in the paper’s story, the Saudi officials have not responded to calls for comment on the issue.
Pakistan’s widely read English daily The Express Tribune reported on Monday that the expansion may even include razing the graves of Prophet Mohamamd, his two caliphs, and the area called Riyad-al-Jannah, which the papers says was declared one of the “gardens of Paradise”.
The interesting question that comes out of this expansion project is whether razing holy sites is not something offensive to the clerics who create uproar against Christians and even some poor Muslims in countries like Pakistan under accusations of blasphemy. So far, Pakistani media and clerics are all quiet about the issue. Maybe they don’t know, which is strange for somebody who keep tabs even on children of religious minorities, not to be aware of such a huge project affecting the most sacred sites of Muslim faith. But maybe it is another important point that is keeping them silent: if the rich Saudis do it for business interest, it’s okay; but if a poor child does it, he/she is declared punishable by death. Does not it call for some serious skepticism?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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