Blueprints for the Mideast
This is the last in a series exploring how large-scale urban projects are transforming parts of the Arab world.
Totally brilliant talk. Both for content and argument and even more for delivery. May Allah give her Hidaya.
I am sure everyone is familiar with TED talks. This one may be a first for them - A talk on Quran. It's about 10 mins or so.
Very poignant video!!
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.
This is the last in a series exploring how large-scale urban projects are transforming parts of the Arab world.
The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very center of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government.
“It is the commercialization of the house of God,” said Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who founded a research center that studies urban planning issues surrounding the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and has been one of the development’s most vocal critics. “The closer to the mosque, the more expensive the apartments. In the most expensive towers, you can pay millions” for a 25-year leasing agreement, he said. “If you can see the mosque, you pay triple.”
Saudi officials say that the construction boom — and the demolition that comes with it — is necessary to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people who make the pilgrimage to Mecca, a figure that has risen to almost three million this past year. As a non-Muslim, I was not permitted to visit the city, but many Muslims I spoke to who know it well — including architects, preservationists and even some government officials — believe the real motive behind these plans is money: the desire to profit from some of the most valuable real estate in the world. And, they add, it has been facilitated by Saudi Arabia’s especially strict interpretation of Islam, which regards much history after the age of Muhammad, and the artifacts it produced, as corrupt, meaning that centuries-old buildings can be destroyed with impunity.
That mentality is dividing the holy city of Mecca — and the pilgrimage experience — along highly visible class lines, with the rich sealed inside exclusive air-conditioned high-rises encircling the Grand Mosque and the poor pushed increasingly to the periphery.
There was a time when the Saudi government’s architecture and urban planning efforts, especially around Mecca, did not seem so callous. In the 1970s, as the government was taking control of Aramco, the American conglomerate that managed the country’s oil fields, skyrocketing oil prices unleashed a wave of national modernization programs, including a large-scale effort to accommodate those performing the hajj.
The projects involved some of the world’s great architectural talents, many of whom were encouraged to experiment with a freedom they were not finding in the West, where postwar faith in Modernism was largely exhausted. The best of their works — modern yet sensitive to local environment and traditions — challenge the popular assumption that Modernist architecture, as practiced in the developing world, was nothing more than a crude expression of the West’s quest for cultural dominance.
These include the German architect Frei Otto’s remarkable tent cities from the late 1970s, made up of collapsible lightweight structures inspired by the traditions of nomadic Bedouin tribes and intended to accommodate hajj pilgrims without damaging the delicate ecology of the hills that surround the old city.
Fifty miles to the west, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Hajj terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport is a similar expression of a form of modernity that can be sensitive to local traditions and environmental conditions without reverting to kitsch. A grid of more than 200 tentlike canopies supported on a system of steel cables and columns, it is divided into small open-air villages, where travelers can rest and pray in the shade before continuing their journey.
This is the last in a series exploring how large-scale urban projects are transforming parts of the Arab world.
But the Vegas-like aura of these projects can deflect attention from the real crime: the way the developments are deforming what by all accounts was a fairly diverse and unstratified city. The Mecca Clock Tower will be surrounded by a half-dozen luxury high-rises, each designed in a similar Westminster-meets-Wall Street style and sitting on a mall that is meant to evoke traditional souks. Built at various heights at the edge of the Grand Mosque’s courtyard, and fronted by big arched portes-cocheres, they form a postmodern pastiche that means to evoke the differences of a real city but will do little to mask the project’s mind-numbing homogeneity.
Like the luxury boxes that encircle most sports stadiums, the apartments will allow the wealthy to peer directly down at the main event from the comfort of their suites without having to mix with the ordinary rabble below.
At the same time, the scale of development has pushed middle-class and poor residents further and further from the city center. “I don’t know where they go,” Mr. Angawi said. “To the outskirts of Mecca, or they come to Jidda. Mecca is being cleansed of Meccans.”
The changes are likely to have as much of an effect on the spiritual character of the Grand Mosque as on Mecca’s urban fabric. Many people told me that the intensity of the experience of standing in the mosque’s courtyard has a lot to do with its relationship to the surrounding mountains. Most of these represent sacred sites in their own right and their looming presence imbues the space with a powerful sense of intimacy.
But that experience, too, is certain to be lessened with the addition of each new tower, which blots out another part of the view. Not that there will be much to look at: many hillsides will soon be marred by new rail lines, roads and tunnels, while others are being carved up to make room for still more towers.
“The irony is that developers argue that the more towers you build the more views you have,” said Faisal al-Mubarak, an urban planner who works at the ministry of tourism and antiquities. “But only rich people go inside these towers. They have the views.”
The issue is not just run-of-the-mill class conflict. The city’s makeover also reflects a split between those who champion turbocharged capitalism and those who think it should stop at the gates of Mecca, which they see as the embodiment of an Islamic ideal of egalitarianism.
“We don’t want to bring New York to Mecca,” Mr. Angawi said. “The hajj was always supposed to be a time when everyone is the same. There are no classes, no nationalities. It is the one place where we find balance. You are supposed to leave worldly things behind you.”
The government, however, seems unmoved by such sentiments. When I mentioned Mr. Angawi’s observations at the end of a long conversation with Prince Sultan, the minister of tourism and antiquities, he simply frowned.
“When I am in Mecca and go around the kaaba, I don’t look up.”
An increasing number of people seem to be worshipping dogs these days as the animal is considered to be the symbol of faithfulness as well as the wealth.
Both domestic and stray canines are thus benefiting in Nizamabad district where devotees throng the Sri Kala Bhairava Swamy temple at Issannapally village in Sadashivanagar mandal where they offer special pujas to the deity and his vahana, Shunaka (dog) seeking good health, wealth and children.
Devotees from Nizamabad, Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Medak, twin cities and Maharashtra frequently visit the temple which is believed to be one of the two temples of Sri Kala Bhairava Swamy. The other one being at Kashi (Varanasi).
Meanwhile, locals of Madnoor, Jukkal, Bichkunda, Kotagiri and Bodhan mandals have also been performing a festival called “Chatty” for dogs. As part of the rituals, they offer special pujas to domestic twin dogs at their door steps and feed the animals and garland them. Few families have even been celebrating cradle ceremonies for puppies as it is believed that childless mothers will conceive if they conduct cradle ceremonies for puppies.
By Areeba bint Khalid
Posted: 9 Jamad-ul-Awwal 1424, 27 June 2004
From the 1800s to the present day, family life in the West has remarkably changed. While the West calls this change part of the women freedom movement, a look at history may show otherwise.
America before the 1800s was a farming country and ninety percent of the population lived and worked on private farms. Households were mainly self-sufficient--nearly everything needed was produced in the house. The few things that could not be produced at home were bought from local craftsmen. Some other things, especially imports from Europe, were bought from stores. Males would take care of the fields and females would take care of the home. In addition, they would engage in spinning, knitting, weaving, and taking care of the farm animals.
The Industrial Revolution, which began around the early 1800s, brought a major change to this way of life. In 1807, in the wake of the war between Great Britain and France, President Jefferson signed the Embargo Act, which stopped all trade between Europe and America. The Act meant that European goods would no longer be available in the US and Americans would have to produce them. One major European import to America was cloth, and so merchants used this opportunity to create a cloth industry in America.
In 1814, Francis Cabot Lowell, a man from Boston opened the first modern factory. Work here was to be done way faster than before. Instead of manually making things in houses, things were to be made at higher speeds in a factory and all stages of the work were to be completed under the same roof. Now what Lowell needed were workers. He found out that women, especially unmarried daughters of the farmers, were more economical to use in labor than men. They were also more willing to work as hired people in factories.
But Lowell had to make the working outside of home acceptable in a society which was not used to it. He assured parents that their daughters would be taken care of and kept under discipline. And he built a boarding community where the women workers lived and worked together.
Soon after, more and more factories emerged across America. Factory owners followed Lowell's example of hiring unmarried women. By 1850 most of the country's goods were made in factories. As production of goods moved from the country to the city, people too moved from the country to the city.
For money to be earned, people had to leave their homes. When women worked on the farm, it was always possible to combine work and family. When work for women moved outside the home, however, the only women who could follow it were those without family responsibilities or those who had no husband or no income. Likewise, the only women who could take care of their families were the ones that didn't have work.
This working out of home became a part of life for unmarried women. They would work until their marriage. But as time passed, women found family life interfering with their work life and instead of viewing working out of home as optional, they viewed family life as such. Many women started delaying marriage even more and some decided to stay single.
Married women however stayed home and dedicated their time to their children. Now that there wasn't any farm work to do, women had even more time to spend with the children. In 1900 less than about 5.6% of married women worked outside. If a married woman were to work, it would be considered that her husband was invalid or that she was poor.
World War I
The first major entry of married women to the workforce came during World War I in 1914. Men went to fight the war and the country needed workers to take over the jobs they left behind. Unmarried women were not sufficient for the labor needs, so employers started to invite married women too, to work. By 1919, 25% of the women in the workforce were married. But this was only the beginning.
Another change World War I brought was the entry of women to the army. About 13,000 women enlisted in the US Navy, mostly doing clerical work--the first women in US history to be admitted to full military rank.
The Great Depression came in the 1930s. The unemployment rate climbed from 3.2% in 1929 to 23.6% in 1932. Jobs became scarce for skilled people and men. Fathers went to search for jobs. Some, under despair, deserted their families. The responsibility of earning fell on mothers in many families.
Most women and children, however, found jobs more easily than men because of the segregation of work categories for men and women. Although 80% of men during the Great Depression opposed their wives entering the workforce under any circumstances, economic factors made it necessary for the women to work. Hours were long and pay was low. Twenty percent of white women were in the workforce.
World War II
World War II came in the early 1940s. Men were drafted to fight, and America needed workers and supplies. Again, the employers looked towards the women for labor. Unmarried and married women were invited to work, as had been done during World War I.
But still, public opinion was generally against the working of married women. The media and the government started a fierce propaganda campaign to change this opinion. The federal government told the women that victory could not be achieved without their entry into the workforce. Working was considered part of being a good citizen, a working wife was a patriotic person.
The government founded the Magazine Bureau in 1942. The Bureau published Magazine War Guide, a guide which told magazines which themes stories they should cover each month to aid war propaganda. For September 1943, the theme was "Women at Work". The slogan for this was "The More Women at Work the Sooner We Win." Magazines developed stories that glorified and promoted the placement of women into untraditional jobs where workers were needed. The idea was that if smaller, unexciting jobs were portrayed as attractive and noble more women would join the work force.
The media created Rosie the Riveter, a mythical character to encourage women into the workforce. Rosie was portrayed as a patriotic woman, a hero for all American women. "All the day long, Whether rain or shine, She's a part of the assembly line. She's making history, Working for victory, Rosie the Riveter… There's something true about, Red, white, and blue about, Rosie the Riveter."
The propaganda efforts worked. More than six million women joined the workforce during the war, the majority of them married women. In 1940, before the war, only 36% of women workers were married. By 1945, after the war, 50% of women workers were married. The middle class taboo against a working wife had been repealed.
Post World War II
The 1950s marked an era of prosperity in the lives of American families. Men returned from war and needed jobs. Once again, the government and media got together to steer the opinion of the public. This time, however, they encouraged women to return home, which shows that the women were brought out not for their freedom but because workers were needed.
But this effort was not as successful and was abandoned quickly. First, women from lower economic ranks had to remain in the workforce because of economic necessity. And second, there came the rise of consumer culture.
The baby boom took place during the 1950s as well. Women who returned home dedicated their lives once again to their children. But around the same time an important change had come in the American life. This was the spread of the television. By 1960, 90% of the population owned at least one set. Families would gather around the screen for entertainment. In the early days, everything including commercials was watched with great interest.
Most middle-class families could not afford the goods the television declared necessary to maintain or enhance quality of life with one paycheck alone. Many women returned to work in order to live according to "the American standard of living," whatever that meant to them.
The number of American women in the workforce from 1940 to 1950 increased by nine percent. From 1930 to 1940 there had only been a three percent increase.
As mothers returned to work, the television became the most important caretaker of a child. Children in the 1950s spent most of their non-sleeping hours in front of the television screen.
In 1940, less than 8.6% of mothers with children under eighteen worked. By 1987, 60.2% of women with children under eighteen were working.
As wives assumed larger roles in their family's financial support, they felt justified in demanding that husbands perform more childcare and housework. Across the years, divorce rates doubled reaching a level where at least 1 out of 2 marriages was expected to end in divorce. Marriage rates and birthrates declined. The number of single parent families rapidly increased. People grew unhappy with their lives, when compared to the lives of people on television.
Women working affected the society in many different ways. The first and most important of these was that children with working mothers were left alone without the care of a mother. As the number of working women increased, the number of children growing up unsupervised increased, and with this increased crime among teens.
Since most women placed their career ahead of family life, family life was greatly affected since unmarried women were generally able to make more money than married ones. For example, according to a study by a Harvard economist, women physicians who were unmarried and had no children earned thirteen percent more per year than those who were married and fifteen percent more than those with children.
The majority of women still work at the lower levels of the economic pyramid. Most are employed in clerical positions, factory work, retail sales, or service jobs. Around 50% of the workforce is female. While about 78% of all cashiers and 99% of all secretaries today are female, only 31% of managers and administrators are female. Equality in the workplace has been a mirage but it has conned millions of women into leaving their homes and destroying the family structure.
It was only when economic or political factors made it necessary to get more workers that women were called to work. The Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the World Wars, all the major events which increased the proportion of women workers, were times when the capitalists required more workers in order to be successful in their plans and so they used women.
The move of women from home to the public workforce has been gradual. First poor women went. Then unmarried women. Then married women without children. Then married women without young children And then, all women. The same thing can be seen to be happening in developing countries around the world, as the West spreads its propaganda of freedom for women to work. The results of this move will probably be the same too.
By TCN Special Correspondent,
Ahmedabad: With the arrest of a former functionary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Raees Khan, along with three others on Wednesday in connection with exhuming the bodies of those killed in Panderwada village during 2002 anti-Muslim riots, the police seem to be laying trap for CJP general secretary Teesta Setalvad who has emerged as the face of the fight against the Narendra Modi government, seeking justice for the Muslim victims.
Speaking to mediapersons after arresting Khan, Habib Rasool Saiyed, Qutubshah Ayyubshah Diwan and Sikander Abbas Sheikh, investigating officer P C Joshi said that police would go to the root of the issue and find out who was the main conspirator and motivated these persons to exhume the bodies and tried to destroy the evidence. The social and human rights activist explains this statement of the police as its bid to lay trap for Setalvad and arrest her in the case with a view to weaken the fight for justice for the riot victims.
Khan was sacked from CJP two years ago on several charges. After remaining silent for some time, Khan launched a campaign against Setalvad. His arrest along with four others in Panderwada case is reported to be a part of an alleged design to trap Setalvad.
When the bodies of 28 persons, out of 32 killed in Panderwada on March 1, 2002, were not found, CJP began a hunt for the missing bodies. He came to know that bodies had been buried clandestinely in the riverbed near Lunawada, about 30 kms away. Khan, assisted by relatives of the victims, exhumed the bodies in January 2006 and eight of them were identified with DNA tests conducted at Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) at Hyderabad. They were again buried after proper Islamic rituals.
But Raees and others invited wrath of the Modi government. An FIR was lodged on January 16, 2006, in Lunavada police station against six persons, including Khan, on charges of destroying evidence.
Fearing their arrest, they moved Godhra sessions court and secured an anticipatory bail. But the state government challenged it in the Gujarat high court and the later on April 5, 2006, asked the six persons to report to the police between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on April 7, 2006. The police recorded their statements but released them as they were armed with anticipatory bail. But the same day around 6 p.m., the then investigating officer J R Muthaliya moved an application before the Santrampur court seeking their remand. The Santrampur court issued notice to all the six accused, directing them to appear in the court on April 17, 2006. When they did not appear before the court, the Santrampur court issued arrest warrants against them all.
Khan and others then moved the Gujarat High Court, seeking quashing of the FIR and stay against their arrest. The court then stayed whole proceedings in the case. As Khan fell out with Setalvad, one of the accused in Panderwada case Mehboob Rassol Chauhan filed an application before the high court on November 24, 2010, withdrawing his petition through which he and others had sought quashing of the FIR. The high court then lifted the stay on the proceedings in the case.
With this development, the arrest warrant against the six issued earlier by Santrampur court came into operation. Khan and three others were then picked up and arrested by Lunavada police on Wednesday and produced in the court. They were remanded to police custody till December 16. Two others -- Ghulam Kharadi and Chauhan--are yet to be arrested.
Earlier, Khan had moved an application in a court in Ahmedabad alleging that Setalvad had fabricated affidavits in the name of riot victims, particularly in Naroda Patia and Gulberg Society mass massacre cases. Khan also recently deposed before the Nanavati Commission probing the Godhra and post-Godhra riots, despite the fact Setalvad had opposed Khan’s deposition before the commission.
All the 21 accused in the Panderwada massacre were acquitted by the Godhra sessions on October 29, 2002, for want of evidence. A senior police official in a report submitted to the state government had stated that the Panderwada case fell because of laxity in investigations by the police.
Ahmedabad: A mosque on the highway connecting Ahmedabad with the state capital of Gandhinagar was demolished by the state government four days ago. It was the only mosque between the Sabarmati Ashram from where Mahatma Gandhi launched freedom struggle and Gandhinagar, a stretch of 25 kms.
Named as Fatima Masjid, it was built on a piece of land bought by a garage owner Haji Majidbhai Sheikh in 1975.
The authorities of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) did not issue any notice or a warning before carrying out demolition on December 13. However, they had issued notices to the garage owners and shopkeepers adjoining the mosque and asked them to vacate the premises as these, according to notices, were to be demolished for widening of the road for extending Bus Rapid Transit System(BRTS) for providing fast and better public transport services.
“When we asked the AMC staffers engaged in demolishing the garages if they intended to pull down the mosque also, they said there was no instructions to demolish the mosque’’, said Nasiruddin Ahmedbhai Sheikh, whose garage was also pulled down for widening the road.
“But after demolishing the garages and shops, about 45 in all belonging to both Muslims and Hindus, the AMC workers directed the bulldozer towards the mosque’’, Sheikh said, narrating how the municipal staffers kept the Muslims in dark about their plans to bring down the mosque.
“They did not give time even for removing the materials kept in the mosque and the living room of the Imam. We could barely remove the copies of the Holy Quran but other things got buried under the debris’’, said another garage owner Gaffar.
“As it was 6.30 p.m. when most of the Muslims had left the place and the demolition squad was accompanied by about 150 armed police personnel, we could not do anything to prevent the incident as it was done all of a sudden’’, said Gaffar.
Sheikh and Gaffar said that they had the records of the land in the name of Haji Majidbhai and showed it to the municipal commissioner I P Gautam. Gautam reportedly told them that he was told that there were only shops and garages and he did not know that there was a mosque as well that came in the road widening project.
Sheikh and Gaffar, through a written memorandum, have demanded that AMC rebuild the mosque on its own expenses either at the same place or at another place in the area. But they said Gautam did not give any concrete assurance.
The mosque was used generally by Muslims working in the Oil and National Gas Corporation’s regional headquarter and Torrent Power Limited’s power plant as also by Muslims having garages for repairing bikes and cars in the vicinity.
It had a capacity to accommodate 250 persons for prayers. It remained full to its capacity during Friday noon prayers. However, the attendance during five-time daily prayers remained thin as there are no permanent Muslim residences in the area.
Subject: A touching video clip of a Kenyan flight attendant who embraced Islam
In The Name Of God, the Most Gracious
the Most Merciful.
Asalaamualiykum Warhmatulahi Wabrakatuh:
A must watch video......Wishing we could work for our deen, religion (Islam) the way our sister in the video talks about?
She says that Islam found her.... she didn't find Islam.
THE WISDOM FUND
December 16, 2010
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Christmas came in extravagant fashion to the desert emirate of Abu Dhabi as a glitzy hotel unveiled a bejewelled Christmas tree valued at more than 11 million dollars on Wednesday.
It is the 'most expensive Christmas tree ever', with a 'value of over 11 million dollars', said Hans Olbertz, general manager of Emirates Palace hotel, at its inauguration.
The 13-metre (40-foot) faux evergreen, located in the gold leaf-bedecked rotunda of the hotel, is decorated with silver and gold bows, ball-shaped ornaments and small white lights.
But the necklaces, earrings and other jewellery draped around the tree's branches are what give it a record value.
It holds a total of 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones, said Khalifa Khouri, owner of Style Gallery, which provided the jewellery.
"The tree itself is about 10,000 dollars," Olbertz said.
"The jewellery has a value of over 11 million dollars -- I think 11.4, 11.5."
"Probably, this will be another" Dubai entry into the Guinness book of world records, Olbertz said, adding that Emirates Palace planned to contact the organisation about the tree which is to stay until the end of the year.
Asked if the tree might offend religious sensibilities in the United Arab Emirates, where the vast majority of the local population is Muslim, Olbertz said he did not think it would.
"It's a very liberal country," he said.
Like other hotels in the United Arab Emirates, it has had a Christmas tree up in previous years. But this year, 'we said we have to do something different', and the hotel's marketing team hatched the plan, said Olbertz.
The tree is not the first extravagant offering from Emirates Palace - a massive, dome-topped hotel sitting amid fountains and carefully manicured lawns.
The hotel, which bills itself as seven-star, in February introduced a package for a seven-day stay priced at one million dollars.
Takers of the package have a private butler and a chauffeur-driven Maybach luxury car at their disposal during their stay, as well as a private jet available for trips to other countries in the region.
And in May, the hotel opened a gold vending machine, becoming the first place outside Germany to install 'gold to go, the world's first gold vending machine'," said Ex Oriente Lux AG, the German company behind the machine.