Muslim Haj Pilgrims Perform Devil-Stoning Ritual

Souhail Karam, Reuters, Dec. 31, 2006

More than 2.5 million Muslim haj pilgrims performed devil-stoning rites on Sunday, amid tight security to prevent overcrowding and protests following the execution of Saddam Hussein.

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“The number one Satan is America,” said Iraqi pilgrim Suleiman Awadallah, who described himself as “a resistance fighter”, after performing the stoning ritual.

“The prayers of all Muslims when they cast their stones at the devil must be directed at (U.S. President George) Bush and his devilish allies in America and the Arab world.”

Ahmed al-Dosary from Kuwait agreed. “I prayed for myself, my family and for the end of the main evil, the United States.”

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But Saudi Arabia attacked Iraq for despoiling the spirit of the haj, one of the world’s biggest displays of mass religious devotion which is a duty for able-bodied Muslims with the means.

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ANXIOUS FINAL DAY

Pilgrims must repeat the stoning again Monday, the last day, as well as make a final visit to the Grand Mosque in Mecca—raising fears of a disorderly, dangerous surge at the Jamarat Bridge in the rush to finish and leave.

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Saudi government-backed clerics have encouraged pilgrims to stone throughout the day to avoid overcrowding, challenging hardliners who say the rite should be carried out before noon.

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Saudi officials said on Saturday that 2.4 million pilgrims were performing haj. But with hundreds of thousands of local residents sneaking into Mecca without official permits, the total number could be closer to a record 3 million.

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