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Syrian Regime Illuminates Historic Umayyad Mosque with ‘Tacky Casino Lighting’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Umayyad Mosque illuminated for the holy month of Ramadan, Damascus, Syria, June 14, 2017. (Reuters)

Damascus – At a time when the country is plunged in darkness and witnessing a severe power shortage, with rationing extending six to eight hours, the Tourism Ministry in the Syrian regime illuminated Damascus’ Ummayyad Mosque with enough lights for 20 mosques.

The garish lights are more suitable for a nightclub than a place of worship or a spiritual historic site.

The residents of the capital were surprised with the green and yellow lights that were projected onto the mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Abdul Fattah, the alias of a Damascene cleric, condemned the illumination as a “violation of the sanctity of the place,” saying that it stems from a lack of understanding or poor taste.

Those who chose the illumination “have nothing to do with religion or with God.”

Islamic heritage researcher Ahmed al-Mufti also condemned the development, posting on his Facebook page: “This meddling with heritage indicates the low level of tastelessness and visual disfigurement that we have reached.”

A masterpiece of Islamic Ummayyad architecture, the mosque lies in the center of the old city of Damascus and is considered the only remaining Ummayyad ruin in the city. It was build in its current form in the year 705. Before being turned into a mosque, it was a church that contained the remains of John the Baptist. Prior to being turned into a church, it was originally constructed as a pagan temple.

Six years ago, the old area surrounding the Ummayyad Mosque fell under the control of Iran that has deployed Shi’ite militias alongside regime defense forces under the pretext of protecting holy Shi’ite pilgrimage sites. The mosque also lies near the Shi’ite minority neighborhood of al-Joura.

An artist who chose to remain anonymous described the Ummayyad Mosque’s lights as “tasteless and tacky,” saying that they do not belong in a spiritual place. It should instead be illuminated by natural or semi-natural light.

She explained that the building was constructed in such a manner as to allow natural light to come through in a way that illustrates a drawing that is in harmony with the spirit of the place, city and region as a whole. In sum, it reflects its identity.

The lighting that the ministry added “also reflects the identity of the war or crisis government,” she said.

The lights have turned a religious place into something that looks like a casino, she noted.

The regime has allowed this disfigurement in the past six years out of its hostility against Damascus’ historic identity. The regime wants to destroy the city from the inside, said the artist.

Media sources revealed that the Awqaf Ministry in the regime had expressed its disapproval of the lighting after the opposition of what remains of the artists, experts and researchers in Damascus.

A nearby merchant joked: “When I first saw the green, yellow and red lighting, I thought that director Najdat Anzour had stolen the mosque to turn it into a film set for a television series on Iran and ‘Hezbollah’.”