JAMARAT, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Muslims from around the world hurled pebbles at a giant wall in a symbolic stoning of the devil on Sunday, the start of the riskiest part of the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where hundreds died in a crush four years ago.
The kingdom stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, and organizing the world’s largest annual Muslim gathering. It has deployed tens of thousands of security forces and medics and is also using modern technology including surveillance drones to maintain order.
Pilgrims - Ritual - Duty - Lifetime - Muslim
Nearly 2-1/2 million pilgrims, mostly from abroad, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. They are asked to follow carefully orchestrated schedules for each stage of haj, but with so many people, panic is a constant danger.
Under close supervision, pilgrims clad in white robes signifying a state of purity converged on Jamarat to perform the stoning ritual from a three-storey bridge erected to ease congestion after stampedes in previous years.
Saudi - Authorities - Pilgrims - Politics - Haj
Saudi authorities have also urged pilgrims to set aside politics during the haj but violence in the Middle East, including wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya – and other global hotspots – remain on the minds of many.
Confectioner Alaa Watad from Syria’s Idlib province, the last major rebel enclave in the country’s civil war, said his hometown was “drenched in blood”.
God - Bottom - Hearts - Relief - Syria
“We pray to God from the bottom of our hearts to bring relief to us and to Syria,” said Muhammad al-Jarak, another pilgrim from Idlib.
Pakistani pilgrims, meanwhile, expressed concern about Kashmir after Indian authorities last week revoked the special status of the border region which has long been a flashpoint for...
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