Saudis Destroy Artifacts in Mecca's Grand Mosque

Including column where Mohammed began 'heavenly journey'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2013 2:32 PM CDT
This aerial image shows tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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(Newser) – Has Saudi Arabia's rebuilding of Mecca gone too far? The Independent is running photos of construction crews as they demolish areas of the Grand Mosque—Islam's holiest site—including a column that marks the place where Mohammed is said to have started his journey to heaven on a winged horse. Saudi authorities have been rebuilding areas of Mecca and Medina for years to accommodate the growing influx of pilgrims each year, but archeologists are expressing alarm over the latest demolition job.

"It matters because many of these columns signified certain areas of the mosque where the Prophet sat and prayed," said the head of an Islamic foundation that obtained the photographs. "The historical record is being deleted." But King Abdullah has chosen an influential Wahabi cleric to lead the expansion, and many prominent Wahabis oppose historical preservation, saying it promotes idol worshiping. According to a Washington-based institute, about 95% of Mecca's thousand-year-old structures have already been destroyed over the past 20 years. (Read more Mohammed stories.)

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