Day after day they come, tens of thousands of Iraqi pilgrims who for years were denied the right under Saddam Hussein to travel to Mecca, thrusting their outstretched papers at officials so they can set out on the hajj.
In the past frenetic weeks, Baghdad's central passport office has been flooded with hopeful Muslims determined to fulfil one of the fundamental duties of Islam. Saddam kept them at home, allowing only a few hundred older worshippers to make the journey.
The pent-up demand is huge. Almost 200,000 Iraqis applied to make the pilgrimage this year, competing for 30,000 spaces allotted to Iraq by authorities in Mecca.
And appears it isn't all sweetness and light:
Iraqis who had hoped to make the annual pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca this week angrily accused politicians and religious leaders Tuesday of manipulating the lottery that selected 30,000 people for the sacred trip to Saudi Arabia.
Iraqis carrying scraps of paper scribbled with their lottery numbers crowded mosques throughout Baghdad. Some beat security guards and fought one another when they didn't see their names on rosters of pilgrims. Entrepreneurs seized on the confusion, illegally selling their spots for up to $200 and turning Islam's most precious pilgrimage into just another postwar commodity.
I guess its just a sign of how much I don't get it...but beating innocent bystanders and auctioning one's most pious religious duty to the highest bidder just strikes me as not representing ones religion very well.
Thursday, January 15, 2004