This year’s Hajj currently going on, is different in many ways. Notably, the number of young people in attendance is markedly higher than in previous years, and the spirit of change is palpable. Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University was quoted as saying, “This idea that freedom and dignity is spreading like wildfire, and at a gathering like the Hajj its conceivable that the electricity coming from those ideas will be picked up.”
While Saudi Arabia, has significantly beefed up security for this year’s pilgrimage, as well as the implementation of lowered quotas from countries currently deemed “unstable” by Saudi authorities, and the finger printing of visitors,there was initial fear that political violence or riots could occur. As of now, nothing of the sort has been reported. Fear of sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia pilgrims were also of concern, given the heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While the Hajj has not been marred by violence since 1987, it could very easily serve as a flashpoint for these tensions, as thousands of people would like to topple the Saudi monarchy and liberate the land.
Most pilgrims have traditionally and currently viewed the Hajj as a symbol of unity between Muslims worldwide and this year in particular, some view it as an Islamic awakening around the world.
For pictures of the Hajj please see: http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-in-photos-on-haj-in-the-midst-of-arab-spring/20111104.htm