- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Millions of muslim pilgrims "stone the devil" during annual Haj
- Date: 19th November 2010
- Summary: MINA, SAUDI ARABIA (NOVEMBER 18, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS WALKING TO MINA FOR STONING OF THE DEVIL HELICOPTER FLYING IN MINA OVER A SIGN READING "JAMARAT" VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS CROWDED AT STONING AREA OF SMALL JAMARAT PILGRIMS STONING THE DEVILS AT SMALL JAMARAT SECURITY MEMBER FROM THE SAUDI SPECIAL EMERGENCY WATCHING THE PILGRIMS STONING FORCES WATCHING PILGRIMS STONING THE DEVIL HUSBAND GIVING STONES TO HIS WIFE SECURITY MEMBER GIVING STONES TO A PILGRIM (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. HASSAN IDRIS, PILGRIM, SAYING: "Five years before, I have (been) here and there is many accidents, many died because of over crowdedness but now (thanks to God) so easy now for every body to do Jamarat and so easy than before, so every year there is facilities here in the area of haj and all people can do haj so easily than before." PILGRIMS CROWDED STONING THE DEVIL SECURITY MAN REPORTING ON STONING PROCESS ON A WATCHING TOWER. VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS STONING STONES FALLING ON JAMARAH AREA CLOSE UPS OF WOMAN STONING VARIOUS CLOSE UPS OF PILGRIMS
- Embargoed: 4th December 2010 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA7OG9HXS2REH1222QM9LU2TG9D
- Story Text: Millions of haj pilgrims participated in a "stoning of the devil" rite on Thursday (November 18) during which they throw pebbles at three walls for three days, symbolizing the rejection of temptation. The ritual has been the scene of numerous deadly crushes in recent years.
The government invested billions of dollars in to make pilgrimage safer and more comfortable.
"Five years before, I have (been) here and there is many accidents, many died because of over crowdedness but now (thanks to God) so easy now for every body to do Jamarat and so easy than before, so every year there is facilities here in the area of Haj and all people can do Haj so easily than before," said Dr. Hassan Idris, a haj pilgrim.
This year's haj -- whichthis week -- drew a record 1.8 million foreigners from diverse regions of the world like Nigeria, Russia and Indonesia that apply a less strict form of Islam than Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah has tried hard to dispel the association between Saudi Arabia and lslamist militancy, promoting an international "interfaith dialogue" through the United Nations.
The U.S. ally often comes under fire from human rights groups criticising its public beheadings and lack of political freedoms in what is an absolute monarchy.
On Wednesday (November 17), Amnesty International called on Riyadh to improve the situation of expatriates after an Indonesian maid was reportedly mistreated by her employer. But during haj Egyptians, Indians or Pakistanis -- who make up the bulk of millions of expatriates in the country -- receive markedly kinder treatment from Saudi officials who refer to pilgrims as "guests of the Merciful", meaning God.
Polite policemen guide pilgrims around the vast Grand Mosque, while the religious police turn a blind eye to pilgrims taking the kinds of photographs that they had frowned on in previous years.
Saudi Arabia's minority Shi'ites often complain of discrimination and attacks by Wahhabi clerics, yet during haj Iranian, Iraqi and other Shi'ites perform the rites unhindered.
As pilgrim numbers shot up over the past three decades, staging a safe haj became crucial for the image of a monarchy that styles its king Custodian of the Two Holy Sites -- a reference to the sacred precincts in Mecca and in Medina where the Prophet Mohammad set up the first Muslim administration.
A series of disasters have claimed hundreds of lives during haj since 1990, including fires, stampedes, hotel collapses and clashes between police and pilgrims staging political protests.
This year the government unveiled a haj train linking the holy sites in and around Mecca that cost $1.8 billion to build. It will only be used some six days a year.
Thanks to its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia can afford to waive the fees for the services it provides, including drinking water, toilet facilities, medical and security services, as well as maintenance and expansion of the Grand Mosque itself. Cold water is on tap at every corner and medics turn up within minutes when someone collapses. Saudi firms distribute umbrellas as protection from the sun.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None