Book Fest 2015: Ziauddin Sardar – The Future of Mecca

Tuesday, August 18th
Chaired by Rosemary Burnett
Garden Theatre

 

Ziauddin Sardar is perhaps an unknown name to many of The Student’s readers. However, considering the fact that he is one of this country’s leading expert on Islam and Muslim thought he probably ought to be better known. Although born in Pakistand, Sardar grew up in Hackney, and is currently the Chair of the Muslim Institute and editor of Critical Muslim, a magazine devoted to contemporary Muslim thought and ideas.

Despite the broad range of his academic dedication, Sardar entered the Garden Theatre this afternoon to talk about something a little more specific: the city of Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad and the heart of Islam. Bringing with him his newly published work, Mecca, The Sacred City, Sardar joined Rosemary Burnett, the founder of the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers series, to chat about the city that is the protagonist of his most recent work.

The event started off on a somewhat introductory note, which was useful for those in the audience unfamiliar with the role of Mecca and the meaning of the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage, in Islamic thought. Sardar then moved on to the history of Mecca right up until its current state, and explained how a city deeply rooted in history is being transformed in order to accommodate the growing number of people performing the hajj on a yearly basis. Deeply critical of the policy adopted by Saudi Arabia, Sardar expressed a growing concern about the effects of such changes, not only in terms of its consequences for Mecca as a spiritual city, but also as a site of great cultural and historical interest for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

By tearing down old buildings to make room for grand hotels, he argued, the whole idea of the pilgrimage is lost. What we are left with is consumerism, a lack of diversity, and, more importantly, a lack of discussion about the meaning of faith and the meaning of Mecca.

 

Photo: Rehan Jamil

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