Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another Stampede-Free Hajj: Credit Where Credit is Due

Something wasn't in the news this year: another stampede at the tent city of Mina.

Because, as far as I can tell, it didn't happen.

No News was Good News from Saudi Arabia

Looks like the Hajj is wrapping up for this year - or maybe it already has. Hajj is "the fifth pillar of Islam ... a pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Dhu al-Hijja...." (Princeton's WordNet) - was, or is, in late November this year.

The date of the Hajj seems to jump around a bit, since it's based on a lunar calendar, and other factors. I don't see any thing unusual about someone not using a solar calendar - but then, I'm one of those people who celebrates Easter. The date of which is determined by another lunar calendar.

The famous - or infamous - stampedes have been at what Western news often calls the "stoning of the devil." Here's what CNN had to say about this year's event:
"...Jamarat is a re-enactment of an event when Prophet Abraham stoned the devil and rejected his temptations, according to Muslim traditions.

"The ritual stoning of three pillars, which occurs in the tent city of Mina -- about two miles from Mecca, was the scene of stampedes and many deaths in the 1980s and 1990s as pilgrims passed a crowded bottleneck area leading to the small pillars on the ground...."
With due respect to CNN, the eighties and nineties weren't the only period during which devout Muslims trampled their way into the world's headlines:

A short selection of regrettable incidents during the Hajj, so far in the 21st century: Note: as far as I can tell, newsworthy stampedes occurred in only in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2006. Counting 2000 as the first year of the 21st century, that means lethal stampedes were a part of only 4/10 of the pilgrimages.

I think one factor that helped this year was a major investment in the infrastructure for this year's Jamarat. According to CNN, Saudi Arabia put up $1,200,000,000 set of five pedestrian bridges - and three "massive pillars" to accommodate the millions on Muslims who came.

My hat's off to the House of Saud, for learning from experience: and making arrangements that didn't kill pilgrims this year. Also, for taking what appear to have been effective steps toward seeing to it that this year's Hajj was a religious event. Not a political one.

Looks like the king of Saudi Arabia saying, back in 2008, that terrorists were giving Islam a bad name may not have been a fluke. (September 27, 2008)

And, looks like another Hajj has passed (or is passing) without disaster, and without the seemingly-obligatory 'death to people we don't like' chants. Despite a few - ah, enthusiastic - Saudi clerics, the government of Sudan, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Somalia's own Al Shabaab, and assorted jihadist wannabes: I think it's possible to think that Islam isn't the hopelessly out-of-touch bunch of dangerous misfits who can't deal with a world where women are often allowed to drive.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.