Vanity Mosque [Archives:2008/1211/Opinion]

November 27 2008

The building is fabulous and astonishing, and has become one of the main features of Yemen. Last Friday, the Al-Saleh Mosque, the center of attention and focal point of discussion for several months, was officially opened with the participation of several Islamic personalities. The state-owned media busied itself singing the praise of the “marvelous” mosque and called it a new Islamic wonder.

Some people I talked to had different opinions. Some said it was a good project, particularly as it has an annex college for Islamic teachings which would offer moderate and tolerant Islam.

That is fine. But, do we need the whole building?

I am not against building mosques, but this mosque is really catastrophic. It shows complete indifference to the feelings of millions of poor in dire need for a bag of flour, some milk or medicine.

Thousands of people are dying of malaria, cancer, hepatitis and other sorts of similar diseases. Many university graduates are jobless, many schools are without basic teaching materials, and many students study under trees. We have severe water and power shortage. The USD 60 millions spent of such a vain project could have been channeled into one of these priority areas.

Some might argue that building mosques is one of the best philanthropic practices and, as long as the president wants to do it from his own pocket, that is fine. Let us accept such an argument. However, I understand it is not the only way to seek God's blessings and I think that building schools or hospitals is not an act that would upset God.

I once heard the president criticizing government officials in Ibb for over-spending on things such as marriages and building mosques. He fell into the same trap of spending through his nose on a project that is absolutely luxurious and unnecessary.

Heads of Islamic authoritarian regimes tend to immortalize themselves through building such monuments, usually paid for by public money and given their names just to appease their ego and vanity.

We appeal for donors and other countries to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for this or that project, while those in charge spend a huge amount of money -regardless of its provenance- on such a mosque to glorify individual vanity. It is not this haraam, guys?

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.