A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, October 11, 2013

In a Divided Middle East, Will This Year's Hajj Be Peaceful?

With the hajj about to begin, at a time when Syria is at war, Iraq profoundly divided on sectarian lines, Islamists and secularists clashing in Egypt, will the annual gathering of pilgrims around the world be peaceful this year? In the years after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Iranian pilgrims frequently demonstrated, even leading to bans on Iranians attending the hajj. Could the divisions in the Arab world today affect the hajj next week?

Apparently the Saudis are a bit concerned; according to the Interior Minister, Prince Muhammad bin Nayif:
In comments carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Interior Minister announced that Saudi Arabia will use “sophisticated techniques [and] modern equipment” to ensure the safety of Hajj pilgrims, adding that the 95,000 security officers will be augmented by additional forces from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the National Guard, and the Presidency of the General Intelligence.
. . . Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz, who also serves as Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, called on pilgrims to perform Hajj with “tranquility,” leaving their political and sectarian differences aside.
“The Hajj is not a field for political conflicts and sectarian differences, taking into consideration the narrow space and congestion of pilgrims, where any kind of unrest could lead to a disaster,” he said.
“Therefore, the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques calls on all pilgrims to adhere to the performance of their rituals and stay away from anything that distracts them from the Hajj and puts them at risk,” he added.
Commenting on the expansion projects being undertaken at the holy sites, the Saudi Interior Minister said: “We have followed the ongoing project by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca. We are committed to decreasing the number of pilgrims this year due to these construction projects.”
A major concern clearly seems to be potential demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood, angered by their ouster in Egypt.

As always, this blog will comment periodically during the hajj, both on its current developments and its hisory and traditions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Ayatollah Sistani earlier this week condemned the practice of some Shi'ah of defaming certain of the Companions of the Prophet and their spouses.