This year’s Haj is taking place with a backdrop of Ebola, which is preventing Muslim pilgrims from three African countries from traveling to Mecca, and the awful spectacle of Muslim extremists running amok in the name of Allah under their Islamic State banner in Syria and Iraq.
The Saudi custodians of Islam’s holiest shrine are very sensitive every year to incidents marring the Haj, and this year security is extra tight, with 85,000 police deployed.
“Show the strength of our unity …these people will not destroy us very
easily. It is very important to show the unity of your strength,” said one pilgrim.
“The Sheikh in Nimira told us today that IS doesn’t represent Islam
and Islam is innocent of their acts, we follow our preachers and
we follow the Saudi government which opposes them,” said another.
According to state television more than 235,000 pilgrims have been turned away from this year’s Haj, either for heath or security reasons. In total some two million people are expected to take part.