Jihad Watch Travelogue.
From our Agra office
What lengths will we here at JW not go to to get the truth for our readers? Braving jet lag and traveler’s diarrhea (and blowing the travel budget through 2020), we can now confirm, absolutely, positively, that Islam has, in fact, from time to time, produced some really nifty buildings.
The great Taj was built by Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor, in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was completed in 1648 after 200,000 man-years of labor. Koranic verses adorn the four exactly symmetric entrances and appear to remain of constant size even as they recede from the observer. The minarets tilt slightly away from the main structure so as to fall outward in the event of earthquake. Pretty clever!
It seems that Shah Jahan had actually begun construction on a second Taj exactly opposite the first on the far bank of the Jamuna river. It was to be built entirely from black marble in order to compliment the first, made entirely of white. But his son managed to throw the old man into prison before he could truly break the bank. Still, that would have been something.
Interestingly, Shah Jahan was something of a religious syncretist, who incorporated Hindu, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and Christian themes into the otherwise distinctively Islamic edifice. According to our Muslim guide (I think I did detect a raised eyebrow when I produced my sign), he wanted to found a new religion based on the belief that all religions lead to God. Shocking as our readers will find it, his idea went exactly nowhere. Yet his magnificent accomplishment remains: another great achievement wrought — as has so often been the case in the course of Islamic history — by a heretic.
BTW, I will be on “Newshour” on the BBC Radio World Service tomorrow, Friday, February 22, to discuss my documentary, Islam: What the West Needs to Know, at 8pm GMT, 3pm EST. Apparently, there will be an interlocutor, yet to be determined, but an imam of some kind, I am told. Could prove interesting. We now have a full-length English version up at Google Video, here.
Have a look and post something supportive!