The Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The emperor had 14 children with his wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child. Feeling sorrowful and distressed, he decided to build this immense mausoleum between 1631 and 1648 to express his immense love for her. The Taj Mahal is considered to be one of the most mesmerizing and breathtakingly beautiful buildings in the world. It is a universal masterpiece and a great architectural achievement.
It is said that over 20,000 workers built it over a period of 22 years. Made of white marble which is decorated with Qur'anic verses and precious stones brought from all over the world, the architecture is truly a wonder in the full sense of the word. Its glamour has remained unchanged for centuries. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named it a World Heritage Site, and over two million tourists visit it annually. It will always remain one of India's prominent landmarks and its name will always be synonymous with India. Any tourist who visits India will go to the Taj Mahal because a visit to India would not be complete without it.
Despite all of the beautiful qualities and the historical importance of the Taj Mahal, the right-wing Indian government intends to remove the name of the Taj Mahal from India's tourist guides and booklets under the pretext that it does not represent Hindu culture, but rather represents Islamic culture, which is viewed with hostility. The government has forgotten, perhaps intentionally, that most of the tourist landmarks and attractions in India belong to Islamic culture. If this extremist and fundamentalist government removes the Taj Mahal from its tourist guides, will it also ban tourists from visiting this important monument? Will it also ban tourists from visiting the Red Fort, Qutub Minar (a minaret forming part of the Qutub Complex), New Delhi-based Jama Masjid, the landmarks of Fatehpur Sikri Town and other historical landmarks dotted all over India, which were constructed by Muslims and which are a part and parcel of Indian culture?
The leaders of the extreme ruling party in India are trying, based on racial fanaticism, to distort the historical and geographical facts to serve their political objectives. This fanaticism will not be in the interest of the Indian people and culture. On the contrary, it will provoke tension and stir up sectarianism among all Indians.
Hindu historians and researchers, who are fair and just, admit and acknowledge that Muslims have contributed greatly to India's politics, economy, society, culture and civilization. There have been many contributions of Muslims and they will continue to be recognized by many. Hundreds of books have been written and lectures given highlighting these contributions.
However, some extreme Hindus continue to deny these contributions and regard Muslims as invaders and occupiers. They insist on ignoring the historical facts, especially the unity of all Indians, regardless of their religion and sect, against the foreign colonization, especially the British, who occupied India for over 200 years and killed tens of thousands of Indians from all religious sects, leading to the rise of Muslims and Hindus against this colonization.
What is the Indian government planning to do and what will it get from removing the name of the Taj Mahal from its tourist guides? Is it planning to ban tourists from visiting the site and neglecting its upkeep until it falls into ruin and is destroyed by hoodlums? Is this what it wants to do? Or will it claim that a Hindu god was born near the location of the Taj Mahal? After all, this is what happened to the Babri Masjid, which was built by Zahir-ud-Din Babur in the 16th century, and which was demolished by a mob of hoodlums in 1992.
The demolition of the mosque led to massacres between Muslims and Hindus. The case is still being reviewed by Indian courts and has been ever since the mosque was demolished. At the time, it was claimed that Ram was born in the same location as the Babri Masjid. Although no substantial proof was presented to support this claim, the government let the mob of hoodlums wreak havoc in the mosque. Will UNESCO intervene to protect the Taj Mahal, which is one of its registered heritage sites?
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org