A New Mecca in Dordrecht

Our Flemish correspondent VH has compiled an exhaustive report on the upcoming installation of a ka’aba in Dordrecht, the birthplace of Calvinism in the Netherlands. VH says, “This scandal arose in June, but the project was postponed. Now it has become clear that the permit has been issued and the project will be unveiled Friday, September 4, 16:00-18:00 hrs. in Dordrecht.”

He includes his own artistic impression of a 4m3 ka’aba on the square next to the Augustinian Church in Dordrecht. What the real “artistic” ka’aba will look like is not yet known.

Ka’aba in Dordrecht

First, a translation from Reformatorisch Dagblad:

Still a Ka’aba in Dordrecht

Churchwarden Gert de Boon of the Augustijnenkerk [Augustinian Church] in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, is very disappointed that it is still planned that a work of art that shows similarities to the Ka’aba in Mecca will be revealed very near the church.

Last week Gert de Boon discovered on the website of the municipality of Dordrecht that a permit had been issued for the artwork The Mecca of Calvin. The Churchwarden delivered a petition to the Dordrecht municipality against the artwork in June this year. “If there is any place which is linked with the origin of the Dutch State, the national synod and the State Translation [translation of the Old and New Testament straight from the original Hebrew and Greek texts into Dutch], it is this location.” His petition only delayed the unveiling of the art work.

According to Gerrit Willems, director of the Dordrecht Center for Fine Arts (CBK), the aim is not to make a religious statement. “The artist wants to emphasize that values such as sobriety, self-reflection, hard work, and consideration were not exclusive to Calvinism, but could also be found in other religions, such as Islam.”[1]

The Churchwarden De Boon is disappointed that he, as a petitioner, was not told sooner that it has finally been decided that the Ka’aba will still be placed close to his church.

At the square Het Hof [see also this satellite photo], next to the historic Augustine Church in the center of Dordrecht, a Ka’aba will be built, a temporary art work by the Moroccan-Dutch Aziz Bekkaoui from Amsterdam. It is a cube of 4 by 4 by 4 meters, consisting of scaffold materials, concrete and reflective glass, and “refers to the central holy place of Islam, the Ka’aba”. The cube will cost €3000. “That money could better be used by the municipality to plant some trees on the square.”

Churchwarden De Boon calls it provocative that the work will be placed near the location where in 1618 and 1619 the Synod of Dordrecht [picture here] was held [to settle a controversy over the Remonstrants, the followers of Jacob Arminius, theological professor at Leiden University, and the teaching of Calvin and his followers — apart form Dutch delegates, there were twenty-six delegates from eight foreign countries]. Moreover, he criticizes the fact that this Ka’aba incident occurs during the Johannes Calvijn Year, to commemorate the birth of John Calvin 500 years ago on June 10, 1509. Calvin, whose real name was Jean Cauvin [in Dutch: Johannes Calvijn], had laid the groundwork of Calvinism and the (Dutch) Reformed Church.

“Calvijn wanted absolutely nothing to do with Mecca, let alone Islam[2]. This work does make this link though, which I find provocative. Certainly given the environment in which it will be built here. If there is any place connected with the creation of the State of the Netherlands, the National Synod, and the States Translation of the Bible, it is this location,” says Churchwarden De Boon.

A Mecca for Calvin

The Churchwarden thinks that it is also offensive to Muslims. “They must travel once in their lifetime to Mecca. And now an icon of their sanctuary will be placed in Dordrecht. Mecca is the holy place for Muslims; they also will not be happy that their Mecca is misused this way.”

The unveiling of The Mecca of Calvin is planned on Friday, September 4, 16:00-18:00 hrs. “That is in the middle of Ramadan.” It will stay on the square until October 18, 2009. The Churchwarden thinks it is offensive to the church. “We have several church services, weddings and concerts here.” Moreover, the Churchwarden finds “it is far too big for the square, it will incite violence and vandalism by the [“enriched”-VH] youths, with whom we have already experienced a lot of trouble. The huge surface of reflective glass may even attract violence.” Apart from that, trucks will have so little space to maneuver that they might hit it, according to De Boon, who himself lives opposite the planned Ka’aba, and will keep the curtains closed quite often during the coming time. “But we must hope and pray that a reversal will occur in this matter.”

The following quote is translated from the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
– – – – – – – –

The artist believes that the term Mecca of Calvin should not to be taken too literally. “To me it is a concentration point.” Christians, especially sturdy Calvinists, might have serious problems with the Ka’aba as memorial for the Calvin Celebrations — Calvin himself was not too impressed with Muslims[2] and his spiritual descendants have that in common with him. […] These spiritual descendants are probably also not pleased with the idea of “a pilgrimage” object. The artist Aziz is aware of this. “I know that Calvinists do not simply opt for a pilgrimage, which is more something Catholic, or Muslim. But I hope that here a kind of togetherness will emerge, to which everyone says: ‘I am proud, I’m Dutch, I’m Calvinist. Yes, in some sense I am also a Calvinist, I work hard.’”

VH adds this:

Only a few years ago the Muslim word was highly offended by the new Apple store in New York, even called the “Apple Mecca”, and like the much later Ka’aba in Dordrecht (plagiarism?), is made of glass. According to the offended Muslims it resembled the Ka’aba, the cube in Mecca with the Black Stone (Part of the Islamic Trinity: Allah, Muhammad, and a Meteorite).

On October 10, 2006, an Islamist website posted a message alerting Muslims to what it claims is a new insult to Islam. According to the message, the cube-shaped building which is being constructed in New York City, on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets in midtown Manhattan, was clearly meant to provoke Muslims. The fact that the building resembles the Ka’aba, even called “Apple Mecca, and intended to be open 24 hours a day like the Ka’aba, and moreover, contains bars selling alcoholic beverages, constituted a blatant insult to Islam. The message urged Muslims to spread the alert, in hope that “Muslims will be able to stop the project.”

In 2008 a Berlin gallery had to be temporarily closed because of “an exhibition of satirical works by a group of Danish artists after six Muslim youths threatened violence unless one of the posters depicting the Ka’aba shrine in Mecca was removed.”

A few comments on GeenStijl.nl:

Still a pity that when those carpet-knotters must make art, it always has to relate to that boring, monotonous and warmed-over world of that belief. Islam in its most complicated matters still looks more like a junior-high dropout cult. If I called myself creative, I think I’d be done with it pretty soon, and put something else there besides such a dull block. [waskuip-admiraal]

Only this morning I said England will be the first European Muslim country. But the Netherlands makes a great effort to overtake the British over the left hand side. [James Lastig]


[1]   “According to Gerrit Willems, director of the Dordrecht Center for Fine Arts (CBK) and organizer of this Ka’aba event in the framework of “500 years Calvijn”, “it is not the aim to make a religious statement.” But the introduction to the “Mecca of Calvin” by his Arts Center shows otherwise:

500 Years of Calvijn

In the national debate about Dutch identity the question of the influence of Calvinism plays an important role. What role has this religious conviction played in shaping our society and want individual characteristics of the Dutch point back at collective Calvinist values? The first debate about Dutch identity mainly reflected on the character of migration and migrants, of naturalization and citizenship, but in the Calvin Year, in which the 500th birthday of Calvin will be remembered, in new discussions the question always arises: how Calvinist is our country?

As part of the Calvin Year, the Dordrecht Center for Fine Arts (CBK) invited the artist [and Muslim] Aziz for the preparation of an exhibition at the CBK and a performance and installation on the Het Hof (the square in front of the Church) in the center of the city. Dordrecht pays special attention to the commemoration of Calvin with several exhibitions and events, because the city has played an important role in the history of Calvinism.

In 1619 a synod took place in Dordrecht in which the precepts of Calvinism were identified. With his exhibition and installation, Aziz has given his own interpretation of this memorial. Calvinist virtues and characteristics, such as soberness, diligence, straightforwardness and working hard, says Aziz, are values and virtues that do not only apply to Calvinists, but are shared by many more people. People with different views of life and religious beliefs. Modern Calvinism, according to the artist, is not only a religion, but also a form of culture. It is an attitude that is characteristic of many, both in their work and private life. An attitude that is not typically Dutch, but occurs in different cultures and countries. The Calvinism is of all times, of all cultures and of all people.

The Dutch have annexed Calvinism and are only too happy to call themselves sober and hard-working and think they are strict about themselves. But there are many more cultures and religions that carried out this belief long before Calvin. Just think of Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism and the Stoa. The beliefs and values you must dedicate yourself to as a human, like having to work hard and occasionally be stringent with yourself, is of all times and religions, so it seems. This is the premise that Aziz works with for his live performance and installation. With the “Mecca of Calvin” he turns the historical location ‘t Hof into a modern pilgrimage.

[2]   That Calvin was not too impressed with Islam and Muslims is an understatement. Apart form being a strong opponent of conservative Judaism and Catholicism, he was even more of an opponent of everything Islam. A few quotes:

Calvin on Muhammad (“Mahomet”): “An Apostate” / “A false Prophet” / “A hypocrite” / “Alleged prophet” / “An idol” … On Allah: “A puppet” / “An idol substituted by Mohammed and his Moslems” … On Islam: “The ‘Gospel’ of Mahomet that turns all things upside down, and to brings all things to confusion” / “Islam’s claims are false!” / “Early-mediaeval perversion” / “Blasphemous” / “Devilish” / “Sect of Mohammed” … On Muslims (“the Turks”): “They worship a puppet” / “Such a one ought now to be put to death, without forbearing. For so has God ordained!” / “Mahomet gave them (the Turks) the cup of his devilish dreams to drink, and they got drunk with them” / “Cursed hellhounds made drunk with their follies” / “Heathen!” / “Moslems who follow Mohammed are in the grip of false spirits” / “Brute beasts” (but also “Poor Beasts”) …

“Now it should not be thought that Calvin was blind to the few commendable features of Islam,” writes Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee in his study “Calvin on Islam” [published by The Historicism Research Foundation, Australia, 2000].

“It is clear from John 1:19-25 and 6:14 that not Mohammed but Jesus Christ is the promised Prophet like Moses Whose coming was predicted at Deuteronomy 18:15f,” John Calvin: wrote, “Too, it is clear from John 14:16 & 14:26 and 15:26 and 16:7-15 — that it is not Mohammad but the Holy Spirit Whom Christ would then soon send, as the promised Comforter, to and also for His People. Islam’s claims here, are false!” […] “Mahomet has reported himself to be the party that should bring the full revelation — over and besides the Gospel. And by means thereof, they [the Islamic Turks] have utterly become brute beasts… At this day, we see that those poor beasts busy their heads about as doltish and unsensible things as any can be. But it is the just vengeance of God, Who has given them over to a wilful stubborn mind!”

Rev. Prof. Dr. F.N. Lee further writes in his study:

In 1539, John Calvin wrote to his friend [Willem] Farel (1489-1565) that “the more prudent…foresee that the Turk will not remain quiet if he sees Germany engaged in civil war. Already he has possession of Upper and Lower Wallachia [in Romania]; and has declared war upon the King of Poland unless he [the latter] allows him free passage through his territories.” In 1541, Calvin again wrote to Farel that the German Emperor (of the so-called ‘Holy Roman Empire’) then feared “an attack on the side of Turkey… Regarding the Turks, various rumours are spread about.” […] “The Turk had sent…troops…who…laid siege to Pesth [Budapest]… Accounts relate that the Turk himself was on his way with a great army and camp equipage.” Indeed, those in “Wallachia [within Romania had]…delivered themselves over …in subjection to his authority.” However, patriots in their midst then “chose a new leader…whom they bound by oath to promise eternal enmity against Turkey.” […] “The Turk again prepares to wage war with a larger force. Who will stand up to oppose his marching throughout the length and breadth of the land, at his mere will and pleasure?” […] “The Turkish War now occupies the minds of all, and fills them with alarm. It well may!”

To Calvin there could be no doubt at all as to the final outcome of those Turkish [Muslim] Wars. Ultimately, they would result — in the final victory of Christendom over Islam. [In which he was tight, but final looks more and more to have been an interbellum 1683-2001 — translator] Calvin, however, knew, also from the Book of Daniel, that Christ’s Kingdom would increase and ultimately triumph over Islam.

5 thoughts on “A New Mecca in Dordrecht

  1. “The artist wants to emphasize that values such as sobriety, self-reflection, hard work, and consideration were not exclusive to Calvinism, but could also be found in other religions, such as Islam.”

    Hard work, a value of Islam ? Whose work, exactly ? Could it be that the 14 million slaves imported from Africa into Muslim countries helped a little bit towards all that “hard work” ? (And that figure does not include the slaves bought or captured in Europe and Asia.)

    In 1960, there were still half a million slaves in Saudi Arabia. In 1955, a French diplomatic dispatch reported that a common trick was to lure Black Africans into a pilgrimage to Mecca, supposedly paid for by a rich Muslim to repent for his sins. When in Mecca, the naIve pilgrims were rounded up by the police, ostensibly for lack of a visa, then sold as slaves.

    In 1960, slave boys were still submitted, in Saudi Arabia, to complete castration (including the penis). This was in accordance with the centuries-old practice inflicted by Muslim traders upon black African male slaves (many of them dying in the process).

    Western countries have also practiced slavery, but for a shorter while, and on a less extensive scale. Most importantly, their religion never sanctioned it, they abolished slavery long ago, expressed repentance for it, and actively fought against remaining practices, including in their former colonies and zones of influence.

    As long ago as 1842, the British consul in Tangiers, following instructions from his government, wrote the Morocco sultan to ask what laws had been passed, if any, to suppress or alleviate slavery.

    The sultan haughtily replied that he did not see what the consul was speaking about : the holy laws of Islam sanctioned slavery, and all tribes and sects agreed on that.

    In Mauritania, slavery was abolished in… 2007, when a law made it a criminal offence. It was but the fourth attempt in the 20th century. Previous laws in 1980, 1960 and 1905 were unable to suppress the practice.

    The 1905 law was passed by the French colonial authorities, just before granting independance to Mauritania.

    Maybe “the Moroccan-Dutch artist Aziz Bekkaoui” would like to turn his “work of art” into a tribute of repentance to those millions of black men enslaved and murdered by his ancestors.

    I’m not holding my breath, though.

  2. Oh, and by the way. Just as a preventive measure against possible, excessive smugness from some of our American (and British) friends.

    In 1955, British officials witnessed lorry-loads of children being ferried into planes, in the oasis of Buraimi, in Oman.

    The children were captured (or bought) to be send as slaves to Saudi Arabia. The planes and their pilots were American, and (very handsomely) paid by King Saud.

    One of the pilots boasted that in exchange for his silence, he would be able to accumulate, in a few years, such a fortune as to support him during the remainder of his life.

    The information was transmitted to the Foreign Office. Nothing happened.

    And there we have, very possibly, the explanation for the mysterious passivity and double language of the West towards Islam, which goes on to this day under the form of submission to massive Muslim immigration in Europe.

    It might well be that shady dealings with slave traders such as these will eventually drive ourselves into slavery.

  3. “The artist wants to emphasize that values such as sobriety, self-reflection, hard work, and consideration were not exclusive to Calvinism, but could also be found in other religions, such as Islam.”[1]

    These are points similar to ones made by Solkhar and, after discussions with the Baron, a subject I had hoped to address in a separate post. I will add Solkhar‘s own praises of Islam and then address these points in order:

    Solkhar: As for redeeming features of Islam – I can immediately think of family values, civic responsibility, charity, respect for the elderly, personal challenges and development and there are much, much more but will not spend the time here.

    Artist, Aziz Bekkaoui, extolls Islamic sobriety as something shared in common with Calvanism. Although Calvin closed taverns, alcohol was still able to be consumed during Bible readings. So this comparison is inaccurate at best and actually misleading. Current Islamic sobriety is involuntary and enforced by physical punishment. Western sobriety is by choice and the church inflicts no bodily harm for intemperence.

    Where Islam and Calvanism once shared common ground was in capital punishment for blasphemy, a penalty that I’m sure even today’s most ardent Calvinists would abjure. Robert Marchenoir has already put the lie to the “hard work” portion of this taqiyya and his observations are only supported by other sources:

    A dramatic example of this [aversion to manual labor] occurred during the Gulf war when a severe windstorm blew down the tents of Iraqi officer prisoners of war. For three days they stayed in the wind and rain rather than be observed by enlisted prisoners in a nearby camp working with their hands.

    As for “self-reflection”, if anything is clear, it’s that Muslims usually avoid any self-examination like the plague. Otherwise their skulls might explode from the cognitive dissonance involved in embracing such dichotomous notions as how America’s government or Jews caused the 9-11 atrocity in order to make war upon Muslims but Osama bin Laden is a Lion of Islam™ for giving the USA a black eye.

    Solkhar‘s assertions are equally without merit. Abject Gender Apartheid, so-called “honor killings” and child marriages hardly qualify as “family values”. Additionally, consanguineous marriage that routinely produces retarded and deformed babies doesn’t seem like much of a family value either. Similarly, “charity” in the form of zakat that finances international terrorism employs such a narrow definition of the concept that it is also disqualified. As to “respect for the elderly”, I doubt many grandparents, Islamic or otherwise, would regard having their grandchildren strapped into bomb vests or their granddaughters’ throat slit for flirting as much to cheer about.

    Finally, as to “personal challenges and development”, one statistic says it all. Remove all oil revenue from the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire Muslim Middle East (MME) and the region’s combined GDP is some $500 million per year. Nokia, the Finnish telecom company handily posted a 2008 year end operating profit of over SEVEN BILLION dollars. Agriculture in the MME represents a whopping 11% of the overall GDP. So, “development” is hardly applicable to Islam in general.

    GoV’s word limit does not permit a more thorough refutation of this typical Muslim horse-hocky but the “shared values” of Islam and Christianity are marginal at best while the disparities are monstrous.

  4. A reversal would only occur if MUSLIMS express their “art criticism” in their usual incendiary way.

    Christians can complain from now to Doomsday, and no one in the arts community cares. In fact, the whole point is to offend Christians, so it’s a badge of honor to receive the desired complaints, “mission accomplished”.

  5. Having lived in the lovely river city of Dordrecht (on the “Binnenkalkhaven”) for half a year, I only wish I and my 20 lb. steel maul were still there.

    (If I can convince a Dutch friend to stand in for me, they can take a swing at this wretched bit of ludicrous Islamo-imperialism in my stead. Aim low and hit hard! Remember Theo Van Gogh’s great-great uncle Vincent lived there, once, too. )

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