The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious occasion of paramount importance to all Muslims. It is the fifth pillar of Islam in which all acts of worship are brought together in one scene. For the Saudis, the Hajj pilgrimage has become an opportunity to improve services for pilgrims, to increase the level of security to them and supply adequate amenities in terms of health services, transport etc. The services provided, according to many testimonies, are getting better, especially over recent years during which there has been a reliance on feasible fatwas and religious opinions whilst keeping away from one-sided viewpoints. Pilgrims have been granted more facilities and are kept away from inconveniences and hazardous undertakings.
The Saudi Minister of Interior, Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz has been grappling with this great administrative challenge for years. His presence and his international press conference has become a major event which gains the respect and undivided attention of observers across the world. Questions are proposed about security challenges and the political concerns of Saudi and Saudi Arabians, and Prince Naif responds with expertise and openness. The Saudis entered the pilgrimage season this year after decisively driving out the Houthi militia that tried to cross the southern borders but was met with a strong response from the Saudi armed forces.
However, the attempt to stir up trouble and strife during the pilgrimage season and to politicize this great religious practice in order to serve certain political ideologies and orientations still remains. The same party tried to promote these ideologies in the past resulting only in the bloodshed of innocent Muslims during a holy month and in a holy place with no significance or logic behind the endeavour.
The level of threatening statements is high. The concern and panic that overcame Muslim pilgrims because of Swine Flu, which caused the spread of fear with regards to performing the pilgrimage this year, has turned into a state of anxiety and alarm over the statements and threats that claimed that the pilgrimage season this year would be an occasion for holding protests, lending support or arguing against [a certain current] and for slogans and words that would divide the already-tumultuous Muslim world into even smaller factions, sects, alliances and parties.
To tell the truth, Saudi security forces today are very prepared, and through dealing with the powers of extremism and terrorism, they have a pre-emptive sense and the required awareness to handle all kinds of security challenges not only theoretically but also practically. Through experience and serious investment in training and improvement, Saudi security forces now have elite squads for dealing with emergencies and confronting criminals on all levels.
However, this does not mean that we should do away with caution and examination. If some kind of catastrophic event takes place, it would affect everybody with no exception. I can only end this article by asking God Almighty to make this pilgrimage a blessed event. And in this context, I echo Prophet Abraham’s prayer when he said: “My Lord, make this a city of peace.”