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Sat Sep 26, 2015 10:16pm IST
Haj death toll rises to 769, Iran denounces “crime”
DUBAI |The death toll in a crush at the annual haj pilgrimage outside Mecca rose to 769, Saudi Arabia said on Saturday, as arch-rival Iran said Saudi officials should be tried in an international court for what it called a crime.
The worst disaster to befall the Islamic event in a quarter of a century occurred on Thursday as two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres outside the holy city.
“The latest statistics up to this hour reveal 769 dead. That is an increase of 52 on the previous figures,” Saudi health minister Khalid al-Falih told a news conference.
“Those are the ones who died in various hospitals since the event,” he said, adding that 934 people were wounded.
Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which is locked in a series of proxy wars in Arab countries around the Sunni Muslim kingdom, says that at least 136 Iranians are among the dead, sparking protests and outrage in the Islamic Republic on Friday.
Over 300 other Iranians remain unaccounted for, including former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Fars news agency reported.
“We will urge international courts and circles to start the trial of the Saudis for their crimes against haj pilgrims,” Iran’s Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raisi was quoted as saying by student news agency ISNA on Saturday
“This is not incompetence, it’s a crime,” Raisi told state broadcaster IRIB.
At the U. N. General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani used his address to the summit to demand an investigation into the crush.[ID:nL1N11W0A6]
Protecting the visitors to mosques at the holy cities of Mecca and Medina is a key pillar of legitimacy for the Saudi royal family, and the king has the title of “custodian of the two holy mosques.”
Speaking to the country’s crown prince Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, top Saudi cleric Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said he did not hold authorities responsible for the disaster.
“You are not responsible for what happened. You dealt with the beneficial factors that were in your hands and within your ability. As for the things that humans cannot control, you cannot blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable,” Al al-Sheikh, known as the Grand Mufti, said in a televised statement.
Al al-Sheikh also appeared to deflect criticisms of the kingdom from outside as a product of “envy.”
“Many are envious of the kingdom for its religion, leadership, economy and the cohesion of its members, and for the great blessings it has experienced, unlike many other countries,” he said.
Iran’s blaming Saudi Arabia for what happened is ironic. Consider THIS event:
The 1987 Mecca incident was a clash between Shia pilgrim demonstrators and the Saudi Arabian security forces, during the Hajj pilgrimage; it occurred in Mecca on 31 July 1987 and led to the deaths of over 400 people. The event has been variously described as a “riot” or a “massacre.” It arose from escalating tensions between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Since 1981, Iranian pilgrims had held an annual demonstration against Israel and the United States, but in 1987, a cordon of Saudi police and National Guards had sealed part of the planned demonstration route, leading to a confrontation between them and the pilgrims. This escalated into a violent clash, followed by a deadly stampede. There is a controversy regarding the details of the incident, with both Iran and Saudi Arabia laying much of the blame on the other side. Some sources claim the death toll from the incident was 402 people: 275 Iranian pilgrims, 85 Saudi police, and 42 pilgrims from other nationalities. Other sources claim that more than 400 pilgrims had died, and thousands more injured.
There have been many more such disasters during the Hajj:
Sometimes the surging crowds, trekking from one station of the pilgrimage to the next, cause a stampede. Panic spreads, pilgrims jostle to avoid being trampled, and hundreds of deaths can occur as a result. The stoning of the devil (ramī aj-jamarāt) ceremony is particularly crowded and dangerous. Pilgrims fling pebbles at three walls (formerly pillars) in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj.
Some notable incidents include:
- July 2, 1990: A stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma’aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims, many of them of Malaysian, Indonesian and Pakistani origin.
- May 23, 1994: A stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.
- April 9, 1998: at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.
- March 5, 2001: 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.
- February 11, 2003: The stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims’ lives.
- February 1, 2004: 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.
- January 12, 2006: A stampede during the stoning of the Devil on the last day of the Hajj in Mina killed at least 346 pilgrims and injured at least 289 more. The incident occurred shortly after 13:00 local time, when a busload of travellers arrived together at the eastern access ramps to the Jamarat Bridge. This caused pilgrims to trip, rapidly resulting in a lethal stampede. An estimated two million people were performing the ritual at the time.
- September 24, 2015: More than 700 pilgrims were killed and another 863 injured during a stampede in the 2015 Hajj.
Following the 2006 incident, the Jamaraat Bridge and the pillars representing Satan were demolished and reconstructed. A wider, multi-level bridge was built, and massive columns replaced the pillars themselves. Now, each level of the bridge allows easier and safer access to the columns representing Satan. In addition, the stoning ceremony must be carried out according to pre-determined schedules to prevent over-crowding and the attendant risks. The Jamarat basin has been expanded from its current circular shape into an oval to allow better access to the pillars. The new arrangements provide for separate access and departure routes.
- December 1975: An exploding gas cylinder caused a fire in a tent colony and resulted in the deaths of 200 pilgrims.
- April 15, 1997: 343 pilgrims were killed and 1,500 injured in a tent fire (Main article: Mecca fire of 1997). The tents are now fireproof.
- November 1, 2011: Two pilgrims, a wife and husband, died in a coach fire. There were two coaches in the convoy, and a person in the second coach noticed smoke billowing from the coach in front. He radioed the driver to stop. Everybody evacuated the coach, and as the last two were getting out, the coach suffered three explosions.
- July 31, 1987: A clash between Iranian demonstrators and Saudi security forces brought death to more than 400 pilgrims and injury to thousands more.
- July 9, 1989: Two bombs exploded, killing one pilgrim and wounding another 16. Saudi authorities executed 16 Kuwaiti Shia Muslims for the bombings after originally suspecting Iranian agents.
- January 22, 1973: A Royal Jordanian Boeing 707 crashed at Kano, Nigeria, killing 176 Hajj pilgrims returning from Mecca.
- December 4, 1974: Martinair Flight 138 crashed near Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing all 191 people aboard – 182 Indonesian hajj pilgrims bound for Mecca, and 9 crew members.
- November 15, 1978: Icelandic Airlines Loftleiðir HF Flight LL 001 crashed at Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing 170 (mostly Indonesian) Muslim pilgrims returning from the Hajj.
- November 26, 1979: Pakistan International Airlines Flight 740 crashed after takeoff from the old Jeddah International Airport on 26 November 1979 killing all 156 on board.
- August 19, 1980: Saudia Flight 163 had a cargo compartment fire shortly after take-off from Riyadh airport. All 287 passengers and 14 crew on board the Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar, registration HZ-AHK, died after the aircraft made an emergency landing.
- July 11, 1991: Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 (operated by Nationair) was a chartered passenger flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Sokoto, Nigeria which crashed shortly after takeoff from King Abdulaziz International Airport, killing all 247 Hajj pilgrims and 14 crew members on board.
Mingling of visitors from many countries, some of which have poor health care systems still plagued by preventable infectious diseases, can lead to the spread of epidemics. If an outbreak were to occur on the road to Mecca, pilgrims could exacerbate the problem when they returned home and passed their infection on to others. This was more of a problem in the past. One such disease, which has prompted response from the Saudi government, is meningitis as it became a primary concern after an international outbreak following the Hajj in 1987. Due to post-Hajj outbreaks globally of certain types of meningitis in previous years, it is now a visa requirement to be immunised with the ACW135Y vaccine before arrival. Every year, the Saudi government publishes a list of required vaccines for pilgrims, which for 2010 also included yellow fever, polio, and influenza.
2006 Al Ghaza hotel collapse
A concrete multi-story building located in Mecca close to the Grand Mosque collapsed on January 5, 2006. The building, the Al-Ghaza Hotel, is said to have housed a restaurant, a convenience store, and a hotel. The hotel was reported to have been housing pilgrims to the 2006 Hajj. It is not clear how many pilgrims were in the hotel at the time of the collapse. As of the latest reports, the death toll was 76 and the number of injured was 64.
2015 crane collapseMain article: Mecca crane collapse
A crane fell in the grand mosque on September 11, 2015, ten days before Hajj. 118 people died and 394 were injured.
At what point do we conclude that (1) such pilgrimages should be ended and/or (2) maybe Allah is sending the peoples of the world a not too subtle message that ISLAM IS NOT HIS RELIGION AFTER ALL?!
But hey, what is a few hundred people dying as long as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia keeps making so much money from the pilgrims, correct? Indeed…..
The destruction of sites associated with early Islam is an ongoing phenomenon that has occurred mainly in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, particularly around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The demolition has focused on mosques, burial sites, homes and historical locations associated with the Islamic prophet Muhammad and many of the founding personalities of early Islamic history. In Saudi Arabia, many of the demolitions have officially been part of the continued expansion of the Masjid al-Haram at Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and their auxiliary service facilities in order to accommodate the ever-increasing number of people performing the pilgrimage (Hajj).
The twenty-first century has seen an increase in the demolition of sites in Mecca and Medina. As the annual Hajj continues to draw larger crowds year after year, the Saudi authorities deemed it necessary to raze large tracts of formerly residential neighborhoods around the two mosques to make way for pilgrimage-related infrastructure. In 2010, it was forecast that developers were going to spend an estimated $13 billion on the largest expansion project in the city’s history. While there is widespread agreement for the need of facilities that can accommodate greater numbers of pilgrims, the development of upscale hotels and condominium towers, restaurants, shopping centers and even two luxury spas has caused some to criticize the over-commercialization of a site which many consider to be a Divinely ordained sanctuary for Muslims. The rapid influx of capitalist investment in Mecca and Medina leads many to believe that money and economic growth are ultimately the bottom line for Saudi authorities. A proposition which critics argue works hand in hand with Wahhabi state policy that looks to impose a massive cultural and social deletion within the Holy Cities, erasing any elements that give way to practices that go against the Wahhabi creed. According to The Independent, House of Mawalid where Muhammad is said to have been born is about to be replaced by a huge royal palace, as a part of a multibillion-pound construction project in Mecca which has resulted in the destruction of hundreds of historic monuments.
Below is an incomplete list of destroyed sites:
- The mosque at the grave of Sayyid al-Shuhada’ Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib.
- The Mosque of Fatima Zahra.
- The Mosque of al-Manaratain.
- Mosque and tomb of Sayyid Imam al-Uraidhi ibn Ja‘far al-Sadiq, destroyed by dynamite on August 13, 2002.
- Four mosques at the site of the Battle of the Trench in Medina.
- The Mosque of Abu Rasheed.
- Salman al-Farsi Mosque, in Medina.
- Raj’at ash-Shams Mosque, in Medina.
Cemeteries and tombs
- Jannat al-Baqi in Medina, leveled, still open access for men only.
- Jannat al-Mu’alla, the ancient cemetery at Mecca.
- Grave of Hamida al-Barbariyya, the mother of Imam Musa al-Kazim.
- Grave of Amina bint Wahb, Muhammad’s mother, bulldozed and set alight in 1998.
- Graves of Banu Hashim in Mecca.
- Tombs of Hamza and other casualties of the Battle of Uhud were demolished at Mount Uhud.
- Tomb of Eve in Jeddah, sealed with concrete in 1975.
- Grave of the father of Muhammad, in Medina.
Historical religious sites
- The house of Mawlid where Muhammad is believed to have been born in 570. Originally turned into a library, it now lies under a rundown building which was built 70 years ago as a compromise after Wahhabi clerics called for it to be torn down.
- The house of Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife. Muslims believe he received some of the first revelations there. It was also where his children Fatimah and Qasim were born. After it was rediscovered during the Haram extensions in 1989, it was covered over and it was made into a library.
- A Hilton hotel stands on the site of the house of Islam’s first caliph, Abu Bakr.
- House of Muhammed in Medina, where he lived after the migration from Mecca.
- Dar e Arqam, the first Islamic school where Muhammad taught. It now lies under the extension of the Masjid Alharam of Mecca.
- Qubbat’ al-Thanaya, the burial site of Muhammed’s incisor that was broken in the Battle of Uhud.
- Mashrubat Umm Ibrahim, built to mark the location of the house where Muhammad’s son, Ibrahim, was born to Mariah.
- Dome which served as a canopy over the Well of Zamzam.
- Bayt al-Ahzan of Sayyida Fatima, in Medina.
- House of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, in Medina.
- Mahhalla complex of Banu Hashim, in Mecca.
- House of Ali where Hasan and Husayn were born.
Imagine that, destroying the holy sites of Islam to make one set of rituals of Islam more available to millions of Muslims!
THERE IS NO GOD AND MUHAMMAD WAS NOT A PROPHET!