February 05, 2004


8 Bangladeshis were among the 244 pilgrims who were trampled to death during the stoning of the devil ceremony of Hajj on 1st of February. When questioned about the safety measures that were in place, Iyad bin Amin Madani, the Saudi minister for the Hajj, replied: "I assure you that all preparations are always made, but we don't always know God's intentions."

Glenn Reynolds quotes an American Muslim who performed Hajj recently:

The Saudis couldn�t even organize the hajj safely. Each day, as I performed the rituals of the hajj, I was part of massed crowds of Muslims from all over the world: Turks and Pakistanis, Nigerians, Malaysians, Arabs. We would shamble forward without order or seeming direction, endangering lives as we knocked over women, the lame and the elderly in our hurry to get from one ritual to the next. Once, in a street so filled with pilgrims that I could not take one step forward, I was forced to jump into the back of a truck to avoid being killed in a stampede.

At the stoning ritual, I watched little girls fall under the crowds of pilgrims: Turks shoving Arabs, Africans shoving Indians until each day a few more pilgrims were trampled to death. The next day I would read of the incident in the Saudi Times (FOURTEEN PILGRIMS KILLED IN STAMPEDE) which would quote a hajj official who never took any responsibility for the deaths. He would only say that since the pilgrims had died on hajj they would �surely enter Paradise�. There was never any promise to cut the number of hajjis or control the outsized crowds to prevent these needless deaths.

Andrew Anthony of the Guardian writes in an article:

no one else is interested in bringing attention to this recurring carnage because western governments - some of whose citizens are part of the pilgrimage - are afraid of offending the Saudis. And most westerners probably dismiss the whole thing as the strange workings of religious fanaticism...

Andrew Sullivan says:

the constant mass deaths that accompany the annual Muslim Hajj is more to do with bad organization than with a "death-cult." I don't believe all those victims chose to die and others glorified it.

He also raises the question:

If, say, 244 people had been killed at the Vatican in Holy Week, do you think that we would have moved on from the story by now? People would have been held accountable; journalists would have gone over the catastrophe in excruciating detail; relatives of the dead would be interviewed; and on and on. But in Saudi Arabia? It's just God's will. May happen next year as well.

True indeed.


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