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Letter: Saudis to blame for hajj tragedy

Performing hajj is a once-in-life religious duty for every adult Muslim physically and financially fit for the journey. It’s a dream for every devoted Muslim to participate in this pilgrimage of prayer, peace and piety. A migration from materialism, from all different colors, classes and racial identities to an Abrahamic identity and nationality.

Mecca must be a city of safety and security not only for the pilgrims but even the animals and the trees during the hajj rituals. The king of Saudi Arabia calls himself the Custodian of the Holy Sites and servant of God’s guests. However in the absence of sufficient security and service, the recent pilgrimage turned into a terrible tragedy.

First the crane crash inside the Holy Mosque in Mecca claimed 345 dead and injured. Sadly, this happened on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

The second tragedy happened in Mina, a couple of miles from Mecca on Sept. 24 during the Eid al-Adha, one of the major faith festivals in Islam. The death toll was put at 769 people from 16 countries

If the hajj message is about hospitality, love, service and sacrifice, the so-called Custodians of the Holy Sites didn’t treat the pilgrims with any of these virtues.

Exhaustive heat is not a new phenomenon in Mina, but thirst and dehydration and the closing of some exit gates contributed to the catastrophe.

Based on observations of some survivors of Mina, the stampede started when members of the royal family and their VIP guests, escorted by hundreds of policemen and soldiers, sped up the road in the opposite direction of the pilgrim’s march. To move the VIP convoy convenient, they closed some roads and that was the moment of the nightmare.

Instead of apologizing to the victims’ family, the Saudi health minister Khalid al-Falih added insult to injury when he blamed the dead.

One of the saddest parts of this human tragedy is the silence of the international community. Apparently the Saudi’s wealth has silenced the conscience of many media outlets and public officials, including in the U.S.

I’d like to end this with my disappointment in some fellow citizens who were happy to hear the Mina misery. That reminded me of the same ignorance and lack of courtesy and compassion we witnessed by some blind and brainwashed followers of al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 terrorist tragedy.

Iman Mohammad Elahi