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    Re: Greenwich getting a challenge
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2010 Aug 13, 19:01 -0700

    Andrew, this is a "silly season" story. Somehow August brings out the goofiness among journalists. Yes, there is apparently an amazingly tall clock tower being completed in Mecca. But the idea that its "Mecca Time" would replace GMT or UT is just quackery. It's been picked up by some western media, probably because it seems so outrageous. Well, it is outrageous -- outrageously absurd. There is a small community of self-proclaimed muslim "scholars" who are trying to claim that they can find science in the Koran. Here's a contrary comment from express.co.uk:
    "last night moderate Muslim groups dismissed the idea of 'Mecca time' taking over. Dr Shaaz Mahoob, of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, said: 'It�s an absurd claim. It would be unwise and impractical for anyone to claim it is the dawn of a new era or somehow that this is a new milestone from which time will be measured from now on.' "

    Similarly, from bbc.co.uk (back in April, 2008):
    "The underlying belief is that scientific truths were also revealed in the Muslim holy book, and it is the work of scholars to unearth and publicise the textual evidence. But the movement is not without its critics, who say that the notion that modern science was revealed in the Koran confuses spiritual truth, which is constant, and empirical truth, which depends on the state of science at any given point in time. "

    And in fact the clock in question is set to Arabian Standard Time which is UTC+3, the local mean time for longitude 45 degrees east, quite a ways from Mecca. So the displayed time is defined precisely the way that all other standard times are defined, in terms that date back originally to the Greenwich meridian.

    One "Mecca Time" that would make some sense would be Local Apparent Time in Mecca, which could certainly be claimed to have some traditional religious value. Indeed, to a considerable extent, muslim prayer times are determined by LAT and there are plenty of software tools, specialized wristwatches, etc. which will work this out. So there's nothing new here. Mecca Time in this sense is already in use and has been for centuries. It is in use alongside standard time. Applying LAT more broadly to commerce, train schedules, airline schedules, etc. was possible historically in a quieter world, but today it would cause obvious problems. Does anyone know when Saudi Arabia switched to Arabian Standard Time for normal public time?

    Another "Mecca Time" that could be defined and disseminated would be Local Mean Time in Mecca. This would in effect shift Mecca's time zone offset by some odd number of minutes. This is possible, and they could display it on that big clock tower for show, but this would not replace "Greenwich", or more properly UTC, TAI, etc., in any way (without some sort of global Islamic revolution, which I'm sure a small number of people are thinking of here). Over the past century, those few countries and regions with odd minutes in their time zone offsets slowly but surely gave them up as too much trouble. They're not subjecting themselves to Greenwich, but they are indeed subjecting themselves to standardization of global commerce and communication. A good thing, imho.

    -FER


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