Please click the link posted above to read the entire article; however to provide you with a brief, the following is an opinion forwarded by columnist Thomas L. Friedman in the NY Times; his opinion was based upon the recent event regarding the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia to the Vatican to meet the Pope. Friedman believes that instead of giving the Pope a gold sword and a gold statue of the camel it would have been better if the King had taken a BRAVE MOVE and gifted the Pope with a DARING visa to visit the city of Mecca & Medina. He says in his article “I give King Abdullah credit, though. His path-breaking meeting with the pope surely gave many Saudi clerics heartburn. But as historic as it was, it left no trace. I wished the pope had publicly expressed a desire to visit Saudi Arabia, and that the king would now declare: “Someone has to chart a new path for our region. If I can meet the pope in the Vatican, I can host Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Shiite and Buddhist religious leaders for a dialogue in our sacred house. Why not? We are secure in our own faith. Let us all meet as equals.” ”
I’ve been asked this question a few times hence I figured I’d write about it. I encourage all who have something interesting to say about this matter to comment freely. From what I understand, the reason why we, the Muslims, don’t allow people of other religions to visit our “sacred house” (the Kaba’a) is because we don’t want it to become a mere tourist attraction but how can we really defend this honest statement when we ourselves don’t follow it anymore. While at Hajj I noticed many people having slipped into their world of vanity had forgotten their sole intention of being there. A few even stood by the Kaba’a and posed in front of it as though they were standing besides the Taj Mahal pleased to be taking home a great souvenir. Openly snapping pictures from their technologically equipped camera phones and focusing more on the black square rather than their prayers. It was a little frustrating to see this happen especially when I came to realize that I myself had succumbed to this diversion. However it hit me within a split second after taking pictures that what I was doing was wrong and un-Islamic so I shunned my phone away for the rest of my trip. Regardless times have changed and with that our thinking, I guess there is always a price to pay for modernization and somehow we have never been able to find this balance with religion. Our thinking has evolved so far that we have forgotten to respect the teachings of our archaic religion and with that the right to defend this statement.
However, going back to Friedman and his idea of Democracy… Friedman states that Saudi Arabia has a long way to reach democracy and it won’t be able to attain so until it allows religious freedom in its country. His definition of religious freedom does not only mean allowing people to practice their religion in that country but also welcoming other religions to enter the Holy Mosque at the Kaba’a as though allowing this would create a more Democratic Society?
Friedman questions “Why not?”,
But why, is there a need for them to go there when there isn’t really a purpose behind it all? Wouldn’t it be inviting MAJOR Trouble from both ends that may not really be worth it. Especially with the Arab-world follows its set of rules based on the Shari’a (Islamic Law).
Even Democracy comes with a price and how much are we willing to pay to gain it? I agree with Friedman that democracy isn’t about majority rules it’s about the minority rights, but what is Saudi doing so wrong if they are clearly saying, this is an Islamic country. If you don’t want to live there leave… and that goes for all Muslims too, if we recall; Allah has said in Sūrat’l-Nisā’(Section 14, verses 97,98,99,100): “Verily, as for those whom the angels take while they are wronging themselves, they say, ‘In what condition were you?’ They reply, ‘We were weak and oppressed in the Earth.’ They say, ‘Was not the Earth of Allah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?” This sura, clearly states that if you are not allowed to practice your religion in a country, the world is vast enough to leave and perform Hijrah (emigration) to find another abode. Didn’t Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) do so and leave for Medina when he (PBUH) wasn’t allowed to perform Islam in Mecca. So why is it a problem that we now cherish our ‘sacred house’ and wish to preserve it the way we want? Its not like they are forcing anyone to stay there and follow Islam, are they?
People are always trying to find fault with anything that is different from the norm and it’s funny because people time and again have set up these norms for all to follow. And those who don’t become the wrong-doers and this misfortune of the world goes back and forth and so on and on, it’s a continuum that never seems to be happy with the other’s state of being.
For years humanity has fought in the name of equality, freedom, and choice, many lives have been lost in this battle to promote minority rights. Us Muslims too have fought for these rights many many years ago, first it was for slaves, then women, then religious freedom then why the attack upon Islam now? Weren’t we the ones who first freed Blacks from slavery some 1400 years ago, weren’t we the ones who gave women equal rights as men and stopped the killing of a female child upon birth some 1400 years ago, weren’t we the ones who fought to practice Islam some 1400 years ago. Then why the blame on Islamic countries now; that they don’t believe in democracy, deprive minorities of their rights, and treat women unjustly. We are attacked over and over again for things that we preached first, fought for and believed in. How did we drift so far away from what we deserve – Respect?!! Why these allegations when we were the ones who first led this world into Democracy? Who is to blame for this transition from right to wrong? If only we could savor what we once believed in… maybe then Islam wouldn’t be so far away from the truth; so misunderstood.
Falak Zaffer, December 18th 2007.