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In Mapping the Saudi State, Chapter 7: The Destruction of Religious and Cultural Sites, ADHRB studies the complicity of the Saudi Ministry for Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da’wah, and Guidance in the destruction and defacement of religious and historical sites within the kingdom. ADHRB finds that the ministry has either ignored or encouraged the destruction of numerous sites significant to the global Muslim community, directly impinging upon religious pilgrimages and other acts of veneration. Additionally, the Saudi government has destroyed Arabian Peninsular heritage sites that add to our collective understanding of pre- and early-modern human history.
An alliance of convenience between the Saudi state’s hyper-conservative religious establishment and opportunistic real estate financiers (both of which directly benefit the ruling family) has led to the partial destruction of cemeteries containing the remains of early Islamic figures, the defacement of pre-Saudi religious architecture, and the demolition of historical mosques within the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, at times to make way for luxury projects. The Saudi government has also moved forward with plans to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca, an effort that builds over existing heritage sites while failing to make the annual Hajj safer for pilgrims.
Chapter 7 ends with a list of recommendations for the Governments of Saudi Arabia and the international community that would reverse the damage done to the peninsula’s religious and cultural heritage while preventing any future, needless destruction.
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