The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia’s decree [fatwa] about destroying all churches in the Arabian Peninsula is relevant to understanding what is unfolding in the Arab world. The 'cleansing' of Iraqi Christians, the suicide bombings of their churches in Mosul and Baghdad were the handiwork of Sunni fanatics - the Al Zarqawi gang, the Salafis, the Wahabis, et al. - ideologically motivated by the Wahabi/Salafi doctrine and financed by individuals in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. On 4th February, 2011 this Grand Mufti in his Friday sermon in Riyadh declared the mass of Muslim Egyptians praying in Tahrir square while the Copt Egyptians guarded them as "Enemies of Islam" and the world took no notice.
And so when Zionist Settlers and fundamentalist Israelis set fire to mosques in occupied West Bank and spray 'Death to the Arabs" and "Mohammad is a pig" graffiti on Church and Mosque walls in Jerusalem and Hebron are they not sharing the same bleak side of human condition that this Sheikh of Sheikhs seems to believe his peculiar understanding of faith consists of?
The scholarship of Saudi scholars and their fellow travellers among the Muslims today is distinguished by their ignorance of how and why Islam transformed the mostly pagan tribes of desert 1400 years ago and influenced the far more sophisticated people in the neighbourhood. When Omar bin Khattab accepted the peaceful surrender of Jerusalem in 637 AD the Christian Bishop invited him to offer his prayers in the Holy Sepulchre - the splendorous church of Christendom in the Holy City. Omar gracefully declined saying he would not wish to set a precedent for other Muslims. It was he who, finding no Muslims in Jerusalem, appointed a Jew as his first Governor in Jerusalem [Mohammed and the Believers - at the origins of Islam: by Prof Fred M Donner, page 114.]
Except for the idols in Ka’ba there is no evidence that the Prophet or his successors allowed the destruction of Christian and Jewish places of worship in Syria, Egypt or Mesopotamia, the earliest territories the Arabs conquered or elsewhere in their life time. And does the great Mufti know that it was the Christian King of Abyssinia who took the first Muslims in hijra, including Ruqaiyya one of the prophet’s daughters, and gave them refuge?
Let us not forget the destruction of mosques and shrines belonging to various Muslim sects that has now become a common occurrence in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the adherents of these Saudi scholars. Syria, which for 14 centuries has had a culture where the Syrian Christians fought under Saladin to throw out the Crusaders from their land, is now on the brink of a kind of ‘cleansing’ – in the name of purification of faith – that will put Srebrenica and Rwanda in the shade. And as a Muslim there is little I can do except to bear witness and speak out against this grotesque mis-conception of Islam.
The darkness that has enveloped the heart of Islam, sustained as it is by the West's insatiable hunger for and dependence on oil for the survival of its way of life, is suffocating the very spirit of the message of Oneness and Unity of Creation revealed in that obscure corner of Arabian desert in 610AD. May Allah’s mercy be upon us all!
M A Qavi is a peace activist and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute