Photographs obtained by the Independent show workers with drills and mechanical diggers tearing down some Ottoman and Abbasid sections on the eastern side of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca – the Grand Mosque.
The Masjid al-Haram is the holiest Islamic site and houses Ka’aba, the point to which all Muslims face when praying.
The segments under demolition are the last remaining parts of the mosque, dating back to more than a few hundred years.
One column which has reportedly been razed marks the spot where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) started his heavenly journey Meraj (Night Ascension) to al-Quds (Jerusalem) and to heaven in a single night.
Many of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns at the Masjid al-Haram contain Arabic calligraphy marking the names of the Prophet’s companions and remarkable moments in his life.
Saudi authorities claim that the demolitions are part of a multi-billion-dollar development plan aimed at increasing the capacity of Masjid al-Haram.
The Saudi mega-corporation Binladin Group (Osama bin Laden’s family business) has won the tender for the expansion project.
The Binladin Group is an active member of the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council and plays a central role in deciding bilateral policy for the benefit of collective US-Saudi corporate-financier and corresponding geopolitical interests.
Saudi King Abdullah has also appointed the top Wahhabi cleric and imam of the Grand Mosque, Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, to be in charge of the development plan.
Critics have described the development project as part of a Western and Israeli agenda and lashed out at the Saudi regime for deliberately disregarding the archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of Islam.
Observers attribute Riyadh’s disdain for historic sites of Islam to the kingdom’s association with Wahhabism, which is an extreme and inflexible interpretation of Islam.
The Saudi Embassy in London has declined to provide any explanation about the issue and merely replied, “Thank you for calling, but no comment.”
Dr. Irfan al-Alawi, the executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation which obtained the new photographs from inside the Grand Mosque, says the development of the Masjid al-Haram could be carried out without the demolition of its historical holy sites.
“It matters because many of these columns signified certain areas of the mosque where the Prophet sat and prayed,” Alawi said.
“The historical record is being deleted. A new Muslim would never have a clue because there’s nothing marking these locations now. There are ways you could expand Mecca and Medina while protecting the historical heritage of the mosque itself and the surrounding sites,” Alawi stated.
Under the pretext of a similar development project, the Saudi regime plans to bulldoze three of the world’s oldest mosques around Masjid al-Nabawi in the holy city of Medina.
Saudi officials have not declared any plans with respect to preserving the historical mosques that are covered by the Ottoman-era structures.
The Washington-based (Persian) Gulf Institute says Riyadh has bulldozed 95 percent of 1,000-year-old buildings in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the past 20 years with the aim of expanding shopping centers, skyscrapers and luxury hotels.
During the construction of the Jabal Omar complex in Mecca, which overshadowed Masjid al-Haram, Saudi officials destroyed many archeological sites, particularly Prophet Mohammad’s birth place and the house of Prophet’s wife, Khadijah (PBUH), turning the holy locations into library and public toilet respectively.
Two of the seven key historic mosques built to mark the Battle of the Trench and a mosque belonging to the Prophet’s grandson were also dynamited ten years ago.
Surprisingly, pictures of demolition of the ancient mosque, which were taken secretly and then smuggled out of the kingdom, reveal the Saudi religious police hailing and celebrating the collapse of the Islamic monuments.
Source: Press TV