The Saudi government has ploughed billions of pounds into the redevelopment of Mecca, with the aim bettering facilities to accomodate the annual influx of at least 15 million pilgrims, increasing by seven per cent a year.
A British newspaper this week was being applauded for ‘breaking’ a story, which was headlined “Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb”.
The article published by ‘The Independent’, talked about fears of segregation across the Muslim world if Prophet Muhammed’s (pbuh) tomb, which is housed under the Green Dome at the al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque, was to be destroyed. It suggested that the Prophet’s body would then be relocated to an anonymous grave in the nearby al-Baqi cemetery.
The Independent is claiming the story as an exclusive, and many have credited the paper as breaking the story.
Now, Mowafaq al-Nowaysar – the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Saudi Arabian ‘Makkah’ newspaper has slammed the newspaper accusing ‘The Independent’ of ‘theft’, claiming they have ‘robbed’ one of their journalists of his story.
Furthermore, al-Nowaysar says that ‘The Independent’ ‘fell in the trap of misunderstandings’ after it ‘mistranslated’ the Arabic article that was posted on 25th August.
Speaking to Al Arabiya News, Omar al-Mudhwahi, the Saudi journalist who wrote the ‘Makkah’ article said: “If they insist on stealing my work, at least they should allow me to provide them with an accurate translation… I would be glad to.”
It transpires that the ‘61-page document’ submitted to the Saudi government by an Islamic academic was in fact a post-doctoral paper compiled by Dr. Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal submitted to the committee of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques. It had been completed for a Saudi Arabian university in order for him to reach the level of adjunct professor.
Although ‘The Independent’ newspaper mentions that there has been no sign that any decision has been taken to act upon the so-called ‘plans’ to relocate the Prophet’s grave, it’s clear that the article focuses of sectarian divide fears if such an event was to take place.
Asian Express contacted ‘The Independent’ Deputy Managing Editor Will Gore who maintains that the article wasn’t ‘stolen’, as al- Nowaysar has alleged.
Mr Gore said: “We made it quite clear there is no suggestion that any decision has been taken to act on the proposals.
“Nonetheless, the paper puts forward some controversial ideas that have inevitably raised concern, especially in the context of previous development in Mecca and Medina. We felt it was important to report on this.”
Al Arabiya has obtained acomment from The General Presidency of the Two Holy mosques, which has denied reports of plans to destroy the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed in Madinah.
Saudi government sources have confirmed that the issue is nothing more than a ‘proposal by an academic which was published in a specialised magazine and is not a government decision’.