According to Hector Avalos, religions might preach peace, love, and harmony, but establishing a textual canon or sacred site which only some have privileged access to also establishes an illusory "scarcity" which causes people to fight. This is the intent of religious leaders, but it's an inevitable outgrowth of their actions — and we can see this occurring in the context of Islam with its holy sites and cities: Mecca, Medina, the Dome of the Rock, Hebron, and so on. Each city is holy to Muslims, but while Muslims focus on what they regard as the positive aspects, they cannot pretend that the negative aspects don't exist. Moreover, even the positive aspects can be criticized as often inaccurate. The holiness of each site is associated with violence against other religions or against other Muslims and their importance has been as dependent on politics as religion, a sign of the degree to which political ideologies and parties make use of the religious concept of "holiness" to further their own agendas.
Islam's holiest site, Mecca, is where Muhammad was born. During his exile in Medina, Muhammad had his followers pray in the direction of Mecca instead of Jerusalem which was the original orientation site. Going on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a person's life is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Mecca is closed to non-Muslims because of a revelation Muhammad allegedly received from God, but some outsiders have entered while disguised as Muslims. Even before Muhammad, Mecca was a pilgrimage site for pagan polytheists and some argue that the Muslim practice of pilgrimage was borrowed from those ancient rituals. Some scholars argue that because Jews and Christians rejected Muhammad's message, ancient pagan practices had to be incorporated into Islam in order to more easily capture the allegiance of local polytheists. Christianity did much the same throughout Europe in order to convert pagans there. Located in the courtyard of the Great Mosque in...