Yesterday evening, I flew out to Boston to help my parents move from my childhood home. Today we left the old place behind. It was a sad leave taking as the developer who purchased it is likely to tear down the house and put in townhomes. He stands to make an extra $200,000 if he builds town homes rather than subdividing the 3.5 acres and putting two more houses on it. To him, it's just an old house.
Even if I hadn't grown up there, I would mourn it being torn down. It was built in the 1820s, and while there have been many changes to it so that it is not exactly a historical house (the barn was converted into a livingroom and loft bedroom, the walkway between the house and the barn was converted into a kitchen, the front entry was redone, a huge fieldstone fireplace was added), it has a character that new houses, and certainly new townhomes do not have, and never will have. Not long ago, an old home was torn down not far from where I lived in Indianapolis, and I mourned it's destruction too. The big old windows, the symetrical design, the steep slope of the roof -- all of it combined to give the house a warm, homey feeling, and an architectural beauty that the newer homes with their 1 window per room and vinyl siding can never hope to attain.
I wish more people valued character and beauty in homes, rather than extra square footage, freedom from ever having to paint siding, and production cost reduction. I wish they valued the heritage and history that is being destroyed. I wish that the bottom line was not what determines every business decision made these days. I wish corporations worried less about continually growing profits and market share and more about paying their workers a good salary, providing safe and pleasant working conditions, and nice benefits, while maintaining decent profits.
Of course, that's not going to happen. And so we will lose beautiful old homes to the ugly new homes being built these days.
Of course, also, this is not only happening in America. Saudi Arabia is about to bulldoze the Prophet's birthplace to make a new hotel and parking lot (full story below). It's a far greater loss than my old home, but it represents the same kind of thinking -- history isn't important, preserving things isn't important, money is.
Maybe the developer will relent, hopefully enough pressure can be put on Saudi Arabia to save the Prophet's home.
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The Saudi embassies in Washington, Ottawa and London are likely to be soon flooded with mail from shocked Muslims urging that the birthplace of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) not be bulldozed.
A report in the London newspaper The Independent, says, "Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage."
According to progressive Canadian Muslim broadcaster and activist, Toronto-based Tarek Fatah, in January 2002, Turkey accused Saudi Arabia of a 'cultural massacre' following the demolition of an historic Ottoman castle near the holy city of Mecca. The spat between Turkey and Saudi Arabia barely caused a stir anywhere in the Muslim world, let alone international circles. The Ottoman fort?s destruction is not the only massacre of culture that the Saudis have done in the name of money and Islam. In the 1980s, they demolished part of the two hills of Safaa and Marwah to build a palace for the late King Khaled.
These historic hills were where Abraham left Hagar, and where Muslims during Haj run between the two hills to commemorate Hagar's search for water for her infant son. Not one Imam or Muslim leader protested. After all millions of dollars have the power of silencing even the most pious. But that is not all. The Saudis are now planning to destroy the very house of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The Independent article quotes Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect, "What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina." According to Dr Angawi - who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam?s two holiest cities - as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. "This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi. The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism.
The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods. Idolatry is punishable be beheading in the kingdom.
According to the London newspaper, "The Wahhabists now have the birthplace of the Prophet in their sights. The site survived redevelopment early in the reign of King Abdul al-Aziz ibn Saud 50 years ago when the architect for a library there persuaded the absolute ruler to allow him to keep the remains under the new structure. That concession is under threat after Saudi authorities approved plans to 'update' the library with a new structure that would concrete over the existing foundations and their priceless remains." Dr Angawi says that the bulldozers could come "at any time" and the Prophet's birthplace would be gone in a single night. Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the Gulf Institute has said, "The destruction of Islamic landmarks in Hijaz is the largest in history, and worse than the desecration of the Koran."
Dr Angawi has said, "The man-made history of Mecca has gone and now the Mecca that God made is going as well. The projects that are coming up are going to finish them historically, architecturally and environmentally." The kingdom cannot cope with the increase in the number of pilgrims and new hotels, apartments and services are badly needed, director of a leading Saudi estate agency told Reuters.
Ahmed does not see that as the reason. According to him, "The service of pilgrims is not the goal really. If they were concerned for the pilgrims, they would have built a railroad between Mecca and Jeddah, and Mecca and Medina. They are removing any historical landmark that is not Saudi-Wahhabi, and using the prime location to make money."