It's Mecca time

Here we go. According to the BBC:

Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth

This is the justification for his saying suggesting GMT should be replaced with ‘Mecca time’ centred on Mecca. Last I heard, modern science, in the form of rudimentary geometry, clearly shows that the surface of a sphere has no centre. If I missed a memo somewhere, please do let me know.

The article also says,

One geologist argued that unlike other longitudes, Mecca’s was in perfect alignment to magnetic north.

As you know, the magnetic pole is slightly offset from the geographic pole. Mecca may very well be at a point where they both line up. But when you’ve got two offset poles, there are two longitudes from which the magnetic and geographic poles appear to align. So why is Mecca better than the other?

Ignoring all of this, what does the position of the magnetic pole have to do with how we tell time? And certainly this geologist realizes that the magnetic pole is moving, right?

He said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.

I call bullshit. The English observed Greenwich as their prime meridian (0° longitude) and used GMT for themselves. They may also have set local time as an offset from GMT in their colonies, but the English did not force the rest of the world to adopt their standard.

International recognition of the prime meridian passing through Greenwich was agreed upon by the twenty-five nations attending the International Meridian Conference, held in Washington D.C. in 1884. The conference did not adopt local time zones, but most countries did so on their own over the next half-century. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine whether the voting countries were the only ones invited, or the only ones who showed up.

Oh, and al-Qaradawy seems to have missed the memo that GMT was replaced by UT 36 years ago.

The way I see it, where the prime meridian is located is purely arbitrary. The country (or countries) along the line gain no advantage from having it. It’s kind of neat, but nothing more. Given that most of the world now uses the same prime meridian, moving it would be no small task. The coordinates on all maps would be instantly incorrect. Timezones could also change, and their offset from the prime meridian certainly would.

Unless Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy has a better reason than his dubious claim (to put it kindly) that Mecca is the centre of the Earth, no one is going to listen.

If Muslim countries wish to observe a different prime meridian, it is their right to do so. They’ll just have to deal with a time and coordinate system incompatible with everyone else. If that’s okay, then I’m not really sure what the problem is. Go ahead and do it.

Next it’ll be the Hijri calendar, because we shouldn’t be using a calendar made by those dirty Christians, right? It certainly won’t stop there, either.

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One Comment

  1. Shawn
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 07:41 | Permalink

    I am all for freedom of religion. My feeling is you are free to practice your religion, just don’t ram it down my throat and I will respect you and your religion without question. In turn I demand the same from you. So please don’t give me this mumbo jumbo in a veiled attempt to say yours is better than mine.

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