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A few weeks ago, I read an article on The Independent about the expansion of the Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. What many did not know, or even realize, is that his expansion would lead to the loss of several historic sites. Yes, expansion is necessary especially with the increase in the number of pilgrims, but since when has it become custom for the rich to have an easier pilgrimage than the poor. When did it become acceptable for some to sleep on the streets and others in luxury during hajj?
Some of these sites include mosques that have been there since the seventh century. Even more disturbing is the fact that this has been an ongoing trend. Many sections of Mecca and Medina have been flatted to make way for skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and shopping malls. The projects for these new buildings has led to the loss of the Prophet's birth place, the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress, and even the hill it stood on to name a few.
What disturbed me most was that the article I read had been published back in 2011. I had only recently heard about it. After the recent uproar over a video posted online slandering the Prophet PBUH and Islam, I thought for sure someone would say something.
The issue has finally gotten some attention. Another article posted on The Independent gave a more detailed explanation. Much of the expansion and lack of consideration for historic sites in Meccan and Medina stems from the need to prevent shirk. When I first tweeted about this asking why it had received little attention, I had many people respond back to me with the same counter-claim.
The problem with such an argument is that it removes the responsibility of learning and teaching. Why must historical sites be destroyed for the sake of prevention? Why can't the solution instead be to teach others about how certain practices may be considered shirk? A more important question, why do so few people even know about this? Where is the outcry? Although I recognize that prevention is better than a cure, why must prevention be destruction instead of instruction? It terrifies me that 90% of such sites are now gone. This is our history. We should be protecting it.
Ruwa is a sophomore at Oglethorpe University studying Politics and English. She is the current president of the Muslim Students Association there as well as Co-President of the Oglethorpe University Heifer International Club and a COEXIST Oglethorpe Committee Member. Check out her blog http://ruwaro.wordpress.com/