The twin towels.

1400 years ago Mecca was the home of Islam. In 2014, however, during the turmoil in Syria, Iraq and now Libya, it seems that Muslims are being split more and more, even in the only place they might actually agree on. I recently had the opportunity to visit Mecca; the home of Allah.

Recent work has changed the scenery since my last visit, which was in 2012. As if the constant commercialization of Haj (pilgrimage) and Umra weren’t enough, it seemed that the Saudi Arabian Kingdom decided that early Islamic sites were no longer relevant in comparison to the vast amounts of Muslims flooding for Haj and Umra.

While Medina had three of the world’s oldest mosques destroyed in the name of expansion, Mecca’s population had been paid, evacuated, and had their houses along with Islamic historical and archaeological heritage destroyed. Along with the constant destruction of physical Islam, tensions were high in Masjid al-Haram; where the Kaaba (big black cube) is located.

Muslims have multiple sects, namely; Shi’ites and Sunnis. While I personally have no preference, it seems that the growth of ISIS counts completely on the fact that they are fighting for Sunni rights; while Hezbollah is demonized as the Shi’i sect that has Islam misconstrued and uses it for the devil’s intentions. The divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites is nothing new, it has been around since the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

However, all these divides were generally put aside when both sects would come into contact in Mecca; not this time. It seemed that the divide wasn’t of importance, if anything, it was an insult to God all together. I went with my family. Personally, I decided to drape my towel on both shoulders, rather than just one. While Sunni people consider this to nullify my Umrah, the Shi’ites would disagree. As I did my Tawaf (Walking around the Kaaba 7 times), I found myself being inappropriately undressed, as I hadn’t been following the rules that the person behind me believed in. However, undressing people is not merely a habit of Sunnis it seems, my father, who had draped his towel on one shoulder, was also inappropriately dressed by another man, who disagreed with the way my father’s towel hung. As if we were in the ghettos of California where the way a piece of cloth hung off our bodies would signify which gang we belonged to, we were automatically categorized and hated/respected accordingly. I found those actions to undermine God, and minimize Him to the pettiness of man.

As if God is a child with a magnifying glass growing angrier at the mere thought that a man’s shoulder showed or not. I fear this divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites will only grow as the clashes continue and the growth of extremism in Islam continues. As long as petty things such as towels divide Muslims, governments and corporations will continue to undermine the very home of God and destroy all things that link us to the original ideals of Islam. tl;dr Muslims will fight about towels.

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3 ton Privilege pt 2.

 

Day 2: Intensive course

Much like an excited child I went to my class, only to wait in line. Have no fear, segregation is here! Saudi citizens of course, got preferential treatment and entered first(Any non-Saudi’s in the class were applying to a public license, allowing them to drive Taxi’s etc..) . The class had a relatively excited and fun instructor, that did nothing other than control the crowd. Instead of teaching us anything, he simply put on a video of all the questions that might come on the exam in all the languages that were available. Don’t speak Arabic? Tough luck, you’ll have to sit through it in silence and waste your time. Even if your language had passed, you weren’t even allowed to leave the class for a breath of fresh air, we all had to sit in a small room, breathing each other’s breath for 2 hours before the instructor asked us to go out with him to the field. Standing in the field, exposed to the 12pm sun in the 45° C heat, the instructor entered his cooled car and showed us what the exam procedure was. Parallel parking, sharp turns, 2 roundabouts connected to each other and a cross terrain, it all seemed so unnerving and I felt like I would finally have the exam that is required to let me know that it’s not as simple as I thought it would be. We all returned to the class, people literally running to get the good seats, hell to get seats in general, seeing that the class was so full some people had to stand. A few minutes later, the instructor entered with stacks of papers that had the names and which days the exams were to be taken at. The first names were pretty much all expats, with dates as far as a month later. When it came to the Saudi applicants, the instructor simply asked “Would you like to do it tomorrow?”, naturally everyone wants to finish as fast as possible and everyone nodded in agreeance, myself included.