Saudi Arabia accused of ‘destroying history’ as Newcastle United takeover stalls

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A controversial £300million Saudi Arabia-funded takeover of Newcastle United has been jeopardised after it emerged the country was behind a pirate TV service that offers illegal access to sporting events. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) issued a damning report that placed the Saudi government behind beoutQ, a service also available to stream.

As part of an ongoing legal process, the WTO report also revealed how the Premier League made submissions against Saudi Arabia as part of the case.

The news, reported by The Guardian last month, has thrown the Newcastle takeover into hot water.

The country has quite possibly destroyed its chances of taking an 80 percent stake in the club.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was tipped to take the stake, along with PCP Capital Partners and the property developers David and Simon Reuben taking 10 percent each.

The takeover must pass the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test before going ahead.

The controversy coincides with a renewed interest in the Saudi government’s ordered destruction of the country’s material history.

Archaeological sites, heritage spots, and ancient artefacts around the country are being destroyed with the green light from King Salman who doubles up as Prime Minister.

Historic mosques, tombs, mausoleums, monuments and houses have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia.

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More than 90 percent of the old quarters of the holiest cities of Islam has been razed to make room for a new urban landscape of hotels, shopping centres and apartment blocks.

The intense expansionism and relentless modernisation has transformed sites like Mecca and Medina from cultural and historical hotspots to cities without a past.

Andrew Petersen, Director of Research in Islamic Archaeology at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, has led and participated in several archaeological expeditions and digs in the Middle East and North and East Africa.

He explained to the reasons for the Saudi regime’s historical genocide, drawing attention to the destruction of Ottoman relics in several cities, and how these pieces of history act as sour memories for an interpretation of Islam different to the current and dominant Salafism.


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He said: “The Saudis actually have a particular dislike of the Ottomans.

“You can’t help but see this being related to current political things, relations between Saudi and Turkey.

“If you take Mecca for example, it’s been there since before Muhammad’s times, 1400 years an more, so there were a lot of shrines already there.

“When the Saudi state was established in the 19th and 20th century they started destroying a lot of the shrines.

“More recently they’ve destroyed a lot of Ottoman buildings in Mecca and Media.

“In Saudi in general there’s a lot of Ottoman buildings and sites that have been destroyed.

“To a certain extent it’s a matter of thought, they like to think of themselves as independent and have never been ruled.

“They see it as an Ottoman occupation which is shameful to them.

“It’s as if they’d like to obliterate the Ottoman past to which it’s just Arab and nothing to do with the Ottomans.”

There is a certain acceptance that religious sites such as Mecca must be extended in order to accommodate the millions of worshippers who make the pilgrimage every year.

Yet, the expansion has come at the cost of the destruction of what remains of Mecca’s Ottoman historic centre and Islamic sites.

Although entwined with political and economic ends, Prof Petersen and others agree that the demolition is also motivated by the ideology of Wahhabi or Salafi Islam – the dominant faith of the reigning Saudi family.

The father of the Wahhabist movement was Muhammad ibn ’Abd al-Wahhab.

He preceded the return of Islam to its earliest origins, in turn attacking the popular practices of worshipping saints and making pilgrimages to tombs and monuments in their memory, advocating the destruction of sacred sites as symbols of idolatry.

These aspects of Wahhabist ideology, now merged with Salafism, lay at the root of the Taliban’s destruction of relics, as well as the so-called Islamic State’s destruction of history across the Middle East.

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