In a severe case of clock envy, Saudi Arabia has erected a nearly 2,000-foot-high timepiece intended to stake a symbolic claim for Mecca as the world's center. Islamic scholars have proposed that the Royal Mecca Clock Tower supplant the observatory in Greenwich, England, to set the new global standard time. It is the latest form of Muslim global outreach - taking control of time itself.
The Mecca clock is as much propaganda as it is a timepiece. Its purpose is to proselytize. "In the name of Allah" is written in Arabic on the clock face, and tens of thousands of green and white lights will flash five times a day to remind people when to pray.
The explicitly sectarian nature of the project does not contradict its scientific basis, according to Muslim scholars. The global switch to Mecca time was proposed in 2008 during an Islamic conference in Qatar. Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy hosted a panel called "Mecca, the Centre of the Earth, Theory and Practice," in which he claimed that Mecca's perfect alignment with magnetic north made it the ideal scientific choice. This is not true, but in Islamic thought, all scientific inquiry is subordinate to the truth revealed in the Koran and the sayings and life of Muhammad. If Islam's prophet said Mecca is the center of the universe, it must be so. If observable facts contradict this claim, they must be reconciled or ignored. Failing that, just build the largest clock in the world and let the nonbelievers deal with it.