Mecca Standard Time

According to the BBC, at recent conference in Qatar, “Muslim scientists and clerics have called for the adoption of Mecca time to replace GMT, arguing that the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth.” Indeed, “A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim ‘qibla’ – the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.”

Most of this is yet another echo of science-in-the-Quran nonsense. But it has other attractions, mainly, I would guess, an appeal to cultural authenticity. It’s hard not to notice, particularly if you’re a devout Muslim, how much of the modern world is shaped by the conventions of infidels. Weights, measures, timekeeping—the recent standards for almost everything is Western European in origin. Much of this is bound to come across as alien cultural impositions. In occasions like the Qatar conference, devout Muslims rail against cultural imperialism, talking about the colonization of Muslim minds.

But then, most Muslims are not Arabs. When I run into Muslims in places like Turkey who want to do things in a more Islamically Correct fashion because “this is more genuinely ours,” I have to wonder why so often “ours” really means “derived from the practices of seventh century Arabs.” There’s no cultural imperialism that succeeds so deeply as getting someone to adopt your religion.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University


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