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Significance of the Kiswah in Riyadh

[ by Charles Cameron — oh, but it’s just a backdrop ]

When ABC News describes the room in which President Trump addressed King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the leaders of 50 Muslim nations in Riyadh this morning, they mentioned that it was “an ornate room that featured 11 chandeliers and six giant video screens.” Okay, but to my eye the scene was dominated by a great black and gold panel of the Kiswah [above], the ornate cloth, renewed once yearly, which covers the Kaaba in Mecca, the point in this turning world to which all Muslims turn in prayer, and around which they revolve in pilgrimage.

I spent some time searching for a decent press photograph or media mention of this Kiswah panel, without success — the chandeliers are clearly more important to media sensibilities than the veil of Islam’s most central shrine, to which all mosques are oriented.


I am reminded of Tim Furnish‘s comment yesterday, pointing out that the Time magazine cover showing the Kremlin (below) had airbrushed out the crosses atop the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral —

— domes which Time referred to, in a further display of ignorance, as minarets.

Why are we so appallingly oblivious to religious symbolism, when it plays so major a role in communicating meaning? What tells us more about a cathedral than the cross which surmounts it? Which more completely dominates that conference chamber in Riyadh — the colorful array of flags, or the great panel of the Kiswah mounted above them?

Why do we so consistently airbrush religion out of the picture?

6 Responses to “Significance of the Kiswah in Riyadh”

  1. Richard Landes Says:

    it’s the great blindspot of liberal cognitive egocentrics. they’ve “freed” themselves from the mind-forged manacles of “superstition,” and they sure as hell don’t want to find out that there’s something more to religion than the silly old wives’ tales they’ve reduced it to. it would mean a) they haven’t got it all figured out, and b) they’d have to lighten up on their contempt for people who are religious.
    the result of this self-indulgent, narcissistic fantasy is that they are completely outmaneuvered by some of the nastiest imperialists on the planet because they radically underestimate them.

  2. Timothy Furnish Says:

    But Charles….the media did NOT airbrush out the kiswah, they simply failed to talk about it. They DID, in point of fact, obliterate the crosses on St. Basil’s Orthodox Cathedral. Your ignorance equivalence thus really doesn’t hold up, my friend.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Ha, Tim, you have a point. I’d say the media have at minimum a blindpspot as to the importance of religious symbols in both cases, with the removal of the crosses certainly a more overt and deliberate act.
    I’m reminded also, now that you press the point, of the even more overt and hostile image:
    cross removed & replaced by ISIS flag

  4. Charles Cameron Says:


  5. J.ScottShipman Says:

    The media doesn’t have blindspot, they have an aversion to Christianity.

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    IMO some members may have a blinspot, some a particular aversion.. but either way, a lot gets left out in the telling.

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