What have they done to my hajj?


When I look around I see the concrete jungle dominating the skyline and imposing itself over the house of God – the Ka’bah – and I feel betrayed by the custodians of the holy sites.
If I want to see skyscrapers I can take a quick trip to the Docklands in London. I did not come here to be shown another city of tall buildings, just like Las Vegas or New York.
In these places I find no spirituality. I am pretty certain God does not want his holy site to be desecrated in this fashion either….
Image above: The four-faced Mecca clock tower: a concrete jungle now dominates the skyline of the holy sites. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/REUTERS
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THE  SPIRITUALITY OF THE MUSLIM PILGRIMAGE IS BEING RUINED BY SKYSCRAPERS AND TRAFFIC JAMS AROUND THE HOLY SITE, WHILE RISING COSTS MEAN IT IS A RITUAL THAT ONLY THE RICH CAN AFFORD

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by Ajmal Masroor

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Today I have completed my hajj – the annual pilgrimage that brings together millions of people in the holy city of Mecca. I am extremely worried that hajj may have lost its true spiritual meaning. I may have attained a personal triumph for completing the rituals but the economic, environmental and human cost is staggering. I lament the speed of change that is sweeping this city, obliterating history and heritage in its path.

Hajj is a spiritual journey of each and every pilgrim that merges into the journey of the masses. It is the coming together of every nation that makes hajj so special. It is personal yet collective. I came here with a clear focus: to centre God in my life. I would make a pledge to live a more conscientious life. I would care for my fellow human beings as I care for myself. Hajj is about an individual and collective renewal of the faith.

But when I look around I see the concrete jungle dominating the skyline and imposing itself over the house of God – the Ka’bah – and I feel betrayed by the custodians of the holy sites. If I want to see skyscrapers I can take a quick trip to the Docklands in London. I did not come here to be shown another city of tall buildings, just like Las Vegas or New York. In these places I find no spirituality. I am pretty certain God does not want his holy site to be desecrated in this fashion either.

The cost of hajj has trebled over the last five years, making the pilgrimage unaffordable for ordinary people. The new high-rise five-star hotels surrounding the Ka’bah are available to those who can afford them. I noticed this year that hajj has already become a ritual for the super rich. The poorer people are being priced out by the unfair and disproportionate price hike. The essence of hajj lies in creating equality between all people by putting on two unstitched white pieces of cloth. This instantly eliminates social and economic inequality. The current trend is making equality a distant dream. I came to hajj to give up material pursuits but materialism is here in full force. There is no spirituality in this.

Hajj for me is an invitation from God to visit his house. The infrastructure around the house of God is being built without any serious environmental consideration. Cars, gas-guzzling jeeps and diesel-operated buses are crowding the surrounding area. Making Mecca car-free should be at the forefront of public transport infrastructure strategy. People spend a lot of time stuck in the traffic jams; I spent half of my time waiting for my bus to take me to the holy site. I would have rather spent that time in the house of God in meditation, reflection and prayers. I found no spirituality in traffic jams.

In Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, the three most important places that form the pilgrim path, there are more plastic bottles, wraps and bags strewn around than many cities produce in a year. The curse of plastic has serious ecological consequences that will outlive all the pilgrims here in Mecca. The environmental damage caused by people littering these sites is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Islam. There are billboard messages reminding pilgrims that “Cleanliness is part of faith”, yet most simply ignore these words of wisdom. The hajj authority must takes serious steps to curb littering by introducing hefty fines for pilgrims and tour operators. They should ban plastic. Pilgrimage is about reconnecting with our humble origins and our ultimate destination. Being careless about the environment is the antithesis of spirituality.

At this rate, hajj soon will become a materialistic ritual, a showground for the super rich to display their wealth and nobility. I badly miss the hajj that reconnects me with the prophet Abraham and helps me to centre God in my life.

Writer Ajmal Masroor provides consultancy and support to media and various government agencies on Muslim issues. He is a broadcaster and regular contributor on national radio and TV programmes, and presents his own programme on the Islam Channel and Channel S.
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Is Qatar the next Arab superpower. Oh really?


Designed to resemble a string of pearls, the Pearl-Qatar in Doha, Qatar is an artificial island spanning nearly four million square meters, creating over 20 miles (32 kilometers) of new coastline, located 383 yards (350 meters) offshore of Doha’s West Bay Lagoon area on a former pearl diving site.
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QATAR IS TINY AND RICH, AND ITS ANGLING FOR INFLUENCE  

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by Aryn Baker

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Note for WoP readers: The Arabs, including Qataris, are the gold grabbers who can’t even produce their own grains. Wealth alone cannot make a nation a superpower. It’s the productivity and the ability to innovate that makes nations great.

Added to this is their incapacity to manage their riches and assets which they leave to others to do for them. And above everything they’re incapable of defending their own country. They are totally oblivious to the fact that a nation cannot be productive if its lazy and squanders its talent (if they do have this trait!). In this regard, not only are they talent-less, they also are arrogant.

In this context, Qatar is just angling for the wrong influence.

Don’t these self styled mauvrik Qataris see a lesson in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and lately Syria that when US wants, it can occupy every Arab land? Is Qatar not occupied?

I’m sure Aryn Baker was given a good compensation for writing such phrases and praises which of course the Qataris don’t deserve.

The following poem by a great and visionary Arab poet GIBRAN KHALIL GIBRAN though quoted quite often yet fully fits into the approach adopted by our Qatari and other Arab friends. (Gulam Mitha)

Pity The Nation…!

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.

 Pity the nation

that wears a cloth it does not weave,
 eats a bread it does not harvest,

and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.

 Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,

and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.

 Pity the nation that raises not its voice

save when it walks in a funeral,

  Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,

 whose philosopher is a juggler,

 and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

 Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
 and farewells him with hooting,
 only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

 Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
 and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

 Pity the nation divided into fragments,
And each fragment deeming itself a nation

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(more…)

Wahhabis destroy Mecca without Resistance



A picture speaks a thousand words’: Sons of late King Faisal [Great Great Great Maternal Grandson of Mutawwa Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abd Al Wahab] Turki Al Faisal and Saud Al Faisal with NEO CON Ex- US Vice President Dick” Cheney – Prince Saud, Prince Turki,Vice President and Mrs. Cheney http://www.saudiembassy.net/archive/2006/news/page562.aspx Man is known by the company he keeps DEATH SQUADS: Seymour Hersh, Dick Cheney & Secret Assassination Wing http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/05/seymor-hersh-dick-cheney-secret.html
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THE RULING SECT OF WAHHABIS DESTROYS HISTORIC BUILDINGS IN MECCA AND MEDINA

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by Viktor Reznov

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One thing that always moves me to express my opinion about it is when I see hypocrisy and double standards when things are measured with a double standard. This time it is about a question that I want to ask my Muslim readers.

Why there are many protests worldwide over cartoons and films, which are seen as an attack on the faith, but we hear not even a peep from you about the fact that the Saudi royal family is destroying the holiest places of Islam? Is this no attack on the faith?

The ruling sect of Wahhabis demolishes historic buildings in Mecca and Medina, and there is no protest. Such as the birth house of Mohammed (pbuh), there is a library now. Added to this is that the Wahhabis are those who fund the Islamic extremists of the Salafists that are pushing the entire Islam in a bad light with their bloodthirsty terrorism. (more…)

The unbending Iran


 At the level of the common man there has never been much interest in what is happening in Iran. For that matter, among the well off too, there’s little curiosity about the possible impact of developments in Iran on our polity or that of the region. When I asked someone, well read on world developments, ‘How’s Iran?’ without batting an eyelid, he replied, ‘Well, a better place to visit than here, but not as good as Turkey,’ a response which illustrated complete disinterest and ignorance of the turmoil that has gripped Iran.
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 CURRENT STANDOFF BETWEEN US AND IRAN: POSSIBLE REPERCUSSIONS

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by Zafar Hilaly

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At the level of the common man there has never been much interest in what is happening in Iran. For that matter, among the well off too, there’s little curiosity about the possible impact of developments in Iran on our polity or that of the region. When I asked someone, well read on world developments, ‘How’s Iran?’ without batting an eyelid, he replied, ‘Well, a better place to visit than here, but not as good as Turkey,’ a response which illustrated complete disinterest and ignorance of the turmoil that has gripped Iran.

Perhaps one reason why Iran gets scant coverage in our media, in contrast to the morbid interest in whatever happens in India, is that there is no real enthusiasm among the overwhelming number of our populace for the Iranian connection. We share a religion but really little else, whatever our history and culture buffs may say.

And if historically the two countries were closely interlinked all that seems eons ago and, frankly, neither has worked hard to draw closer to the other, certainly not since the Iranian revolution. That’s a pity because developments in Iran will impact powerfully on Pakistan and far more so than what is ever likely to happen in Delhi.

 The revolution, for example, not only transformed Iran but also Iran-Pakistan relations. From being close allies we became mere acquaintances and during the Afghan jihad fought a fairly intense proxy war.

Moreover, although we didn’t realise it at the time, the domestic impact of the Iranian Revolution on Pakistani society was even more profound. All of a sudden we became a battle ground for the perennial struggle between the Shia and Sunni groups, with Saudi Arabia backing the latter and Iran the former and that battle has intensified and turned bloodier as the years have passed. However that merits a separate discussion. Here I will focus on the possible repercussions of the current standoff between the US and Iran over the nuclear issue.

Consider that sanctions imposed on Iran are exacting a heavy toll on the everyday life of the populace and the economy. The value of the Iranian rial has fallen by 40 percent; prices of commodities are doubling, in some cases, by the day; medicine and food stocks are low and are not being replenished as fully or as quickly as needed and the government is finding it hard to sell its oil.

In fact, already there are isolated reports of children suffering on account of lack of medicines. However, Iran is not bending.

 If the US-Iran standoff drags on, the most obvious fall out will be the arrival of Iranian refugees fleeing hunger, although that need not be more than a trickle because of the distances involved. However, if war breaks out followed by the kind of saturation bombing of Iran, which some predict will be necessary to destroy Iran’s well protected nuclear installation and the supporting infrastructure, then the number of those fleeing will rapidly escalate.

 However, what Pakistan has to fear more from an American/Israeli onslaught on Iran is not so much the presence of refugees but the angry reaction of Pakistan’s own large Shia population in whose hearts Iran has a very special place.

 Already incensed by the regime’s failure to protect them from being slaughtered by what most Shias now say are Saudi sponsored Wahabi extremists at home, or to bring the murderers to justice, there is every chance they will vent their spleen against the government and demand that Pakistan denounce the UN sanctions regime, break off relations with the US and open the borders with Iran to enable them to go to Iran and help fight the aggressors.

And, in the mayhem that will ensue, sectarian killings may surge. Actually the whole thing may take on an ugly sectarian hue. Pakistan, therefore, has more interest than most in what transpires between the US and Iran in the weeks and months ahead. So will there be war?

Ahmadinejad has not only been the face of defiance and rage against the US and her allies, but has also served as the cultural, political and economic ambassador of Iran to nations as seemingly disparate as Russia/China, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Soviet states in Central Asia and many of the so-called non-aligned nations that seek a multi-polar alternative to predominant American hegemony.
Like Hugo Chavez, he is yet another mobilizing face of a global movement — however dilapidated — aimed at shifting further away from the Washington Consensus. But the big question is: In case of a war who will stand with Iran, and if yes, how effective that solidarity with Iran shall be?

What is certain is that an encircled Iran has to defend itself. No other power will come to its aid. Thus the rationale for the pursuit for a nuclear option by Iran is not a product of the paranoid fancies of the mullahs. Finding themselves in a similar position in relation to the Arabs, the Israelis went nuclear. And so did Pakistan, when confronted by giant India. In a rare moment of insight, a US State Department official also conceded: “Any government in Iran, even a secular western-oriented one, would continue the quest for nuclear weapons” (October 2003).

And why not? To Iran’s east is Pakistan, dominated by an establishment that is in hock to the west and considered an unreliable friend of Iran. To the south, on the peninsula of Qatar, is the US Central Command, with hundreds of planes, thousands of missiles and a whole fleet of vessels, including aircraft carriers, prowling the waters of the Persian Gulf. In the west is nuclear armed Israel; and in the north is Russia. Worse, near Iran’s borders in Afghanistan are thousands of American troops and special service forces, fully equipped to spring into action at the given signal.

It would be strange, therefore, if Iran sought to strengthen its position and, if not actually build nuclear weapons, then acquire the option to do so within a fairly short time. Iran has seen how non-nuclear Iraq was invaded and flattened by the US, whereas nuclear armed North Korea was left alone. In fact, rather than threaten North Korea, like it has Iran, the US is eager to talk to Pyongyang.

 For the US, control of the oil spigots of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran is an imperative need. So too, safeguarding of 20 percent of world oil supplies which flow through the Strait of Hormuz. The US has trillions of dollars to lose each year if the price of oil rises, as it could if the control of oil were in the purview of a hostile Iran because that would not only wreck the American/western economy but bring about an apocalyptic change in America’s style of living. And one way of preventing that disaster is to eliminate the Iranian regime for which America now has a pretext and UN support. Surely, say the erstwhile Bush neo cons, it’s a prospect too alluring to pass up.

Significantly, the US has ramped up its demands on Iran. Claiming that on one occasion Iran had indeed deceptively withheld data (for which it made amends) Washington wants to be completely reassured about the safety of Iran’s nuclear programme. Actually, it wants nothing less than the complete cessation of all nuclear activity, including a dismantling of the already established facilities. In other words, if you cut out the spin, nothing Iran does or the guarantees Iran offers will suffice and no matter what inspection regime Iran accepts, Iran’s entire nuclear programme has to be demolished.

For Israel, on the other hand, the issue is exclusively the possession by Iran of nuclear weapons. Israel is determined to remain the only nuclear power in the Middle East and will not be thwarted. Israel has completed all preparations for an attack on Iran. The recent Israeli engineered fracas in Gaza was to test Israel’s anti-missile system (Iron Dome) in battle conditions and also, lest Hamas teams up with Iran in a war, to destroy Hamas’s cache of Iranian supplied rockets which it has largely accomplished.

The very opposite goals of the protagonists, and the fact that a Pentagon advisor in 2006 said: “The White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran and that means war,” prompted Seymour Hersh to opine that a war is inevitable.

Whether or not that happens and even if the prospects are not as bleak as Hersch suggests, our media would be rendering a service if it keeps the public informed about the goings on and the wavering possibility of war. If nothing else, it will help us brace for the impact.

More from Zafar Hilaly on Wonders of Pakistan

1. Luck Must Go 2. Losing the Horse

Zafar Hilaly is a Pakistani political analyst and diplomat who has previously served as an ambassador to YemenNigeria and Italy. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

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Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.
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Doomsday for Iran? US Tests EMP Bomb



As it stands, one of the best ways to render a building packed with satellite and communications equipment ineffective is to get someone close enough to throw that one, clearly marked breaker switch. You know the one, it’s in all the movies.
Another, and often more chosen method, is to blow the entire building to smithereens. While effective, destroying entire buildings not only ensures plenty of collateral damage, it also makes it much easier to paint a nation as blood-thirsty savages. Believing there to be a better way, US manufacturer Boeing teamed up with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to create the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP for short.
CHAMP is a missile which replaces common munitions with high-powered microwaves. It is designed to fly safely over buildings with the aforementioned satellites and communications equipment and fire directed and potent microwave beams at these buildings. Its designed to do this in order to ruin all electronics equipment inside, such as computers, networks and the like.
The Boeing and Air Force team conducted a test in an undisclosed location in Utah on October 16th, 2012 and found that the CHAMP system worked, well, just like a champ. Read more
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WHEN SCIENCE FICTION BECOMES SCIENCE FACT

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by Tzvi Gedalyahu

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Boeing has successfully tested an EMP missile that could be doomsday for Iran; media have largely ignored the development.

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Israel National News — Boeing has successful tested an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) missile that turns “science fiction into science fact” and could be the doomsday weapon against Iran, but media have largely ignored the development.

The U.S. Air Force and Boeing demonstrated the device more than two months ago over a military site in the Utah desert, reported the VR-Zone technology website.

Boeing did not keep the test a secret, but most mainstream media and technology sites overlooked the report.

The test was codenamed CHAMP — Counter-Electronics High Power Advanced Missile Project and was the first time a real EMP missile has been tested with positive real world results.

One of the most startling developments in the research and test is that the missile system does not use any explosives, thereby limiting damage to its intended goal of directing microwave energy that can cause instant blackouts.

Keith Coleman, who serves as Boeing’s CHAMP program manager in their Phantom Works division, stated that video camera showed “images of numerous desktop computers running, and then suddenly all of them go out quickly followed by the camera going to black,” VR-Zone reported. 

“We hit every target we wanted to…  Today we made science fiction, science fact,” said Coleman.   

An Arutz Sheva opinion article in August mentioned Israel’s possible use of an EMP bomb against Iran. The report triggered a chain reaction, allegedly influencing U.S. intelligence sources who have since been quoted in several publications with doubtful assumptions that the article reflected Israel government thinking.

The London Times subsequently reported that an EMP bomb could cripple Iran by shutting down its electronics and sending the Islamic Republic “back to the Stone Age.”

EMP causes non-lethal gamma energy to react with the magnetic field and produces a powerful electromagnetic shock wave that can destroy electronic devices, especially those used in Iran’s nuclear plants.

The shock wave would knock out Iran’s power grid and communications systems for transport and financial services, leading to economic collapse.

Note: We regret that we have not been able to upload the video that shows the test firing of the EMP missile by the joint USAF and Boeing team. This is because of the current ban by the Government of Pakistan on YouTube videos in the Pakistan. Readers in other countries can view the video directly at the site Information Clearing House from where this article has been cross posted.
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DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.
We at Wonders of Pakistanuse copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.
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