The Mecca Pilgrims Deaths. Yet another stampede

26 Sep, '15

A lot has been written and debated about the tragic and inexcusable events in Mecca which has claimed close to one thousand souls with many more injured. We don’t know what the final tally is, because currently the Saudi official sources have stopped reporting the numbers. Hajj, of course is one of the five pillars of Islam and is demanded of every Muslim to perform once in their lifetime if they are capable to do so.

SAUDI-HAJJ-ISLAM

GRAPHIC CONTENT
Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where at least 717 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. The stampede, the second deadly accident to strike the pilgrims this year, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. AFP PHOTO / STR / Getty Images

The reactions to the most recent Mecca pilgrims deaths I’ve come across generally are either apologists trying to shift the blame to the pilgrims themselves, their nationality – thus being completely racist – as well as blaming their countries of origin whom they say are responsible for educating their citizens before they embark on the pilgrimage; through to those who squarely blame the Saudi regime labelling it as incompetent and fatalistic and should never be allowed to run this holy event in the Muslim calendar.

mecca-deaths-bbc-historyThe number of tragedies in recent history certainly gives the latter thoughts some credibility as the cycle of deaths and more importantly their cause isn’t stopping giving rise to the fact that the Saudis aren’t learning from experiences, or if they are, they’re not adapting their ways to ensure that more tragedies won’t occur in the future.

Another opinion goes further and touches upon the Hajj itself is a business and a major source of revenue for Saudi and almost state that the pilgrims themselves and the event itself is a side consideration. There is no doubt that these opinions are harsh and I can understand the anger surrounding the issue. People’s lives are precious, and if they seem to have gone in vain, the pain is even harder to come to terms with.

munich-octoberfest-hajj-comparison

“Munich’s Octoberfest is an event attended by seven million drunks annually and we didn’t hear of any deaths due to stampedes although all are drunk”

There are other comparisons. People ask, how is it that Octoberfest in Munich attracts seven million drunks and we never hear of stampedes and deaths? There are other large gatherings around the world that do not suffer such a fate either. According to ARC (pdf), 30
 million 
pilgrims attend
 Ayyappan
 Saranam,
 India
, 20 million pilgrims in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Karbala in Iraq welcomes 10 million worshippers annually for the Arba’een Commemoration and the event passes generally peacefully and without much regular incidents save for some terrorist attacks and even those have been mitigated, yet in Mecca with just two million, tragedies are the norm, and so is blaming the pilgrims rather than the system.

A safe and secure pilgrimage is a must and it’s high time that it becomes a reality. This holy Muslim right has been going on for over 1,400 years, one would think that a system to safely run it would have been absolutely perfected by now. Yet the evident truth is that it hasn’t. As Saudi Arabia has taken it upon itself to be the custodian of the two holy mosques and the Hajj, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that this event is regularised as clock-work and be safe for everyone who wants to perform it. It is only through an acceptance of accountability, criticism – regardless of how harsh it may seem – and clear definitions of responsibilities can these issues be resolved for the short as well as the long term. It will also help to refuse to ascribe these issues to fate in any way, but work though them with logic and a transparent evaluation of the facts to clearly identify and repair what has gone wrong.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who perished.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Steve the American says:

    Notice how Americans have not taken to the streets to celebrate the deaths of the Muslims, as Muslims did on Sep 11. That reaction illustrates the difference between a civilized culture and a barbarous one. The difference in the death rate between the Hajj and big religious and secular celebrations in the non-Muslim world can be summed up in the moral values of Islam as expressed by Abu Bakr who boasted Muslims loved death while infidels loved life. How is that working out for you?

  2. Shachar says:

    As Saudi Arabia has taken it upon itself to be the custodian of the two holy mosques and the Hajj, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that this event is regularised as clock-work and be safe for everyone who wants to perform it. It is only through an acceptance of accountability, criticism – regardless of how harsh it may seem – and clear definitions of responsibilities can these issues be resolved for the short as well as the long term.

    In other words, it won’t be resolved. This a generic human trait. Given a monopoly and a captive audience, almost anyone is pretty much guaranteed to do the minimum necessary in order to secure maximal revenue/influence. The only way to change that is to threaten the monopoly.

    Not that I see that happening.

    One way is if other Muslim states revoke control of the area from Suadi Arabia. Yeah right. The other is if Imams around the world start preaching that the Hajj is less important than preserving one’s health, and start preaching against it. Again, I don’t see that happening.

    Barring this (or ISIS), expect things to, at best, remain the same. Things do not improve unless there is pushback, and I don’t see anyone with enough leverage to push back actually going ahead and doing so.

    Again, this is not a Muslim thing. This is a human nature thing.

    Shachar

    • mahmood says:

      I tend to agree with you Shachar. Though some vociferous opposition is happening this time, it’s only in opposition papers like the Arab Times (Google Translated) which is actually blocked in the Gulf and Saudi but does have a wide following regardless.

      Social media went on fire with accusations of incompetence from the minute the news started trickling out. However, I share your pessimism of anything actually concrete taking place any time soon.

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