01/24/2005, 00.00
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End of Hajj in Makkah

State-appointed preacher appeals for Muslim unity against violence and terrorism.

Mina (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – More than 2.5 million Muslims have visited the Grand Mosque in Makkah for Hajj, the pilgrimage all Muslims must do at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it.

During the rituals to mark Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, several important Saudi religious leaders seized the opportunity to admonish Muslims against falling into the trap of terrorism which is not the true image of Islam.

Abdulrahman al-Sudeis, the state-appointed preacher at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, told hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in a sermon that because "Muslims have strayed from moderation, we are now suffering from this dangerous phenomenon of branding people infidels and inciting Muslims to rise against their leaders to cause instability."

"The reason for this," he stressed, "is a delinquent and void interpretation of Islam based on ignorance [. . .] Faith does not mean killing Muslims or non-Muslims who live among us, it does not mean shedding blood, terrorising or sending body parts flying."

King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah also urged Muslims to shun terrorism, which last year struck out at the monarchy several times.

In a joint message on state media they said that "Eid stands for many things; among them, that Muslims [. . .] should avoid excesses and extremism. [Instead,] Muslims should unite and embark on a course that disavows terrorism, which spreads mayhem which is forbidden by Islam."

The feast of the Sacrifice is also celebrated throughout the Muslim world. In many countries clerics focused on the Palestinian question and the conflict in Iraq.

In Beirut, Shiite Muslim cleric Ahmed Kourani blasted the US occupation of Iraq and its "invasion of our lands [. . .] seeking to humiliate us".

In Baghdad, Iraqi cleric Mohammed al-Sumeidi lamented what had happened to the capital. "Baghdad is the city of science, the city of kings, the city of believers. It has now become the city of explosions and hideout of criminals," he bemoaned.

According to Saudi authorities, three people died and another 500 received medical treatment because of respiratory complications and overcrowding during the stoning of the jamarat—three pillars symbolising the devil—the final ritual of the hajj.

Saudi Health Ministry sources reported that in the last 20 days 388,173 pilgrims required medical attention, whilst Interior Ministry officials said that this year 2,564,468 pilgrims made the journey for Hajj from every part of the world.

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