Reclaiming the Hajj: Time for true Muslim management
“Those who have reduced hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicizing hajj’, are themselves small and puny satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the U.S.” —Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei
The Hajj: a symbol of the pride and unity of the Muslim Ummah. A bold demonstration of the classlessness and universality of Islam that has been commandeered and subsequently mismanaged by the descendants of Wahhabi warlords who feign Islamic piety while seeking the favor of the Great Satan and its Zionist accomplice, the Little Satan.
Last year’s Hajj confirmed the negligent nature and administrative incompetence of the Riyadh regime. To begin with, a construction crane near the Grand Mosque collapsed killing 111 unsuspecting pilgrims and injuring over 300 others. The tragedy, which to date is the worst crane accident in history, exceeded by orders of magnitude the previous casualty record for a crane collapse set in 2008 when a supercrane in New York City toppled killing six craft workers and one bystander. The Saudi royals blamed the contractor, the Saudi Bin Laden Group for not respecting “the norms of safety.” The manufacturer, Liebherr, cited a failure to properly secure the boom of the model LR 11350 crawler crane.
Following the world’s worst crane disaster two weeks later, a stampede resulted in the deaths of at least 717 Hajj pilgrims—other estimates run as high as 2,000 and among them 131 Iranians—as they made their way to Mina for the ritual of stoning the Satan at Jamarat. One report stated the crush occurred on Street 204 near Mina, a few kilometers from Mecca, when security forces directed opposing crowds on Street 206 bound for Jamaran into the same street. Other reports suggested the disaster propagated when crowds collided at the intersection of Streets 204 and 223.
While Saudi authorities were quick to blame the pilgrims themselves for causing the catastrophe, Al-Arabiya correspondent Saad Al-Matrafi pointed a finger of blame at authorities, who apparently directed a group of pilgrims towards Jamarat at a time not allocated to them. In any case, the disaster evidently stemmed from the Saudi authorities’ failure to coordinate access times for the ritual. Yet similar stampedes have happened before, repeatedly. In 1990, over 1,400 pilgrims were crushed to death, and again in 1994, 1998, 2004 and 2006 for a total of almost 3,000 killed since 1990. And let us not forget that in 1987 Saudi security forces gunned down 402 peaceful demonstrators of whom 275 were Iranian.
Clearly, this is not a record indicative of responsible management. Ayatollah Khamenei urged the recalcitrant Saudi rulers to accept responsibility for the calamity. “The Muslim world has many questions in this regard,” the Leader said, adding, “The Saudi rulers, instead of shunning [responsibility], must accept their responsibility in this grave incident by apologizing to the Muslim Ummah and bereft families.” The reaction from Riyadh was disappointing but predictable. “This is not a situation with which to play politics,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir retorted.
Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah also placed the responsibility for the carnage squarely on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia, and that the unfortunate event showed “there is a major problem in Saudi’s management of the pilgrimage.” Furthermore, the leader of the Lebanese Resistance Movement suggested that a Muslim committee be formed to oversee the management of the Hajj. But to date, no such committee has been formed and there has been no official apology.
Moreover, the Saudis have even refused to allow an independent Islamic inquiry into this terrible tragedy to take place. “Instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event,” the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution noted, “Saudi rulers—with utmost shamelessness and insolence—refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee.”
Joining the leader in his call to Saudi officials for an unbiased investigation into the Mina incident is Pakistani Sunni leader Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, the head of the Pakistan National Solidarity Council. “They should carry out a transparent investigation of the incident and punish those who are found responsible for the loss of lives of innocent Muslims,” said.Zubair, who also echoed Sayyid Nasrallah’s remarks regarding the formation of a committee from other Muslim nations to help manage the Hajj.
To illustrate the ineptitude of Saudi management, let us briefly compare the Hajj with Arba’een, the annual commemoration of the 40th day of mourning for Imam Hussein (AS). Last year, the Hajj had some 2 million pilgrims while Arba’een, the largest annual religious ritual in the world, attracted some 20 million, an order of magnitude more, and is growing in numbers every year. Feeding such a mass of pilgrims in itself is a logistical miracle, with over 50 million meals served each day. While there have been unfortunate attacks on pilgrims over the years, deaths and injuries have remained orders of magnitude lower than the carnages during the Hajj.
Certainly, the Saudis could benefit from the accumulated knowledge and experience of those Muslims responsible for maintaining the highly effective security for Arba’een, which includes members of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But instead of welcoming such cooperation and council, not only have the Saudis rejected such managerial assistance but also have blocked the way for Iranians to go to Hajj, by placing extraordinarily complex and unnecessarily restrictive conditions on the issuance of visas.
By insisting on overproduction of oil, Riyadh has effectively shot itself in the financial foot, not only causing grave damage to the country’s own economy, but also to the world’s economy, which is still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial collapse. With a 2015 budget deficit of $135 billion, the Saudis, perhaps now more than ever in their long history of relations with Washington, are dependent on U.S. favor to keep their regime afloat in their self-created glut of crude oil. Likewise, the takfiri terrorist armies funded by Riyadh to fight U.S. proxy wars are now threatening their chief benefactor with blowback. Saudi desperation has even reached a point where its oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, has publicly declared the kingdom’s readiness to sell oil to the Israeli entity.
Sounding an alarm over the Saudis’ barring Muslims from Hajj and negligence in managing the holy places, the Leader has said in his message to Hajj pilgrims, “Because of these rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj. Negligence in this regard will confront the Islamic Ummah with more serious problems in the future.” Now, more than ever, the time has come to reclaim the Hajj by placing the pilgrimage and the sacred sites under the supervision and control of a consortium of Muslim leaders.