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2024-06-12 12:44:58

Gaza war hangs over hajj as pilgrims flock to Makkah

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Gaza war hangs over hajj as pilgrims flock to Makkah

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have flocked to the Saudi holy city of Makkah for the hajj pilgrimage unfolding this year in the shadow of the Gaza war, reports BSS.

One of the world's largest annual religious gatherings officially begins on Friday, and Saudi officials are trying to keep the focus on prayers.

The Gulf kingdom's minister in charge of religious pilgrimages, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, warned last week that "no political activity" will be tolerated.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, must be performed at least once by all Muslims with the means, and as of Thursday around 1.2 million pilgrims had already arrived in Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part.

Last year saw more than 1.8 million people complete the hajj rites which last for several days. Around 90 percent came from overseas, mainly from elsewhere in the Arab world and from Asia, according to official figures.

Israel's withering military operations against Hamas militants in Gaza have "created a lot of anger in (the) broader Muslim world", turning this year's hajj into a "test" for Saudi leaders, said Umer Karim, an expert on Saudi politics at the University of Birmingham.

"Protest or performance is bound to happen by individuals or groups of pilgrims, and Saudis understand this is a slippery slope," he said. "Thus for Saudi rulers conducting hajj is a matter of prestige but also a test of their governance."

Bd-pratidin English/Tanvir Raihan

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