Saudi Arabia was right to bulldoze Mecca, and other thoughts…

GettyImages-518421242-820x550Nicholas Mayes at The Spectator:

Here we might learn something from the Wahhabis. Plenty of observers have bewailed the Saudi authorities’ bulldozing of many of Mecca’s and Medina’s earliest buildings, pulled down lest they become shrines in themselves and distract from the core tenets of Islam. But the custodians of the holy mosques understand that Muhammad, like Ben Jonson’s Shakespeare, ‘is not of an age but for all time’.

The same principle holds for Palmyra and its wonders, and for the best art of our own era: to preserve, regenerate. The stones and gongs that make up a temple or a piece of art can change without destroying the ideas they hold up or erasing the history that holds them up. In Palmyra’s case, that history speaks of cosmopolitanism, religious pluralism and world trade; we should make it stand for these things again, before Putin makes it stand for whatever it is he’s after. In that spirit, we should help rebuild the arches and temples of Palmyra if the Syrians wish, and let viewers organise and reorganise Calder’s sculptures if they wish.

more here.