'Cultural genocide of Islamic heritage' in Saudi Arabia riles Sunni Sufis

Rakhi Chakrabarty, TNN Dec 11, 2012, 02.24AM IST

NEW DELHI: A Muslim clerics' body that claims to represent about 80% of Sunni Sufis in India has protested against destruction of sacred monuments of Islam in Saudi Arabia. The All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid as well as to the Saudi ambassador in India and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) among others venting the angst of "thousands of Indian Muslims".

In his letter, AIUMB general secretary Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kicchouchhwi wrote, "... the tomb of the Prophet is now prime target of the Saudi regime. This is sought to be done away with in the name of expansion of the mosque (Al-Masjid-al-Nabawi) and developing a five-star culture in Medina Shareef."

He said this was the most heinous crime ever committed against any religion by the 'protector of its holy places'.

AIUMB national secretary Syed Babar Ashraf told TOI, "The Saudi government should preserve, protect and develop the sacred places which are landmarks in the history of Islam. Instead, they are demolishing symbols of Islamic heritage, including the birth place of the Prophet of Islam, in the name of expansion and modernization."

The AIUMB plans to hold a protest march next month. "We will continue to protest until the Saudi government reassures the world that the decisions to demolish Islamic heritages will be withdrawn and all the demolished sacred places will be restored in their original form in their original places," said Ashraf.

While accepting that expansion of Medina is needed, he said, "It cannot be done by demolishing Islamic cultural heritage and sites related to the Prophet, his family members and companions. This is cultural genocide of Islamic heritage," said Ashraf.