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Two million Islamic faithful descend upon Mecca for Hajj

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (

Two million faithful have braved the scorching heat to reach the Grand Mosque in Mecca for the annual hajj. It is a religious journey viewed by many as one of the Muslim faith's greatest acts of worship. Teeming with visitors wearing the simple white folds of cloth prescribed for hajj, the mass of people that have so far arrived at the Saudi Arabia site which reach a peak this coming Monday. Another million are expected.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With highs near the 100 degree mark, many congregated in the cooler shadow of the building's minarets.

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According to the teachings of Islam, Haj must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all Muslims capable of making the expensive, difficult journey. This applies equally to Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, even at a time of tension between Islam's main sects.

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Authorities have asked pilgrims to put politics aside during the annual hajj, but with the bitter divisions in Egypt, some of the faithful refuse to keep quiet.
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"What's happening in Egypt now is a disgrace. The army is killing innocent Muslims in cold blood every day," Zaghloul Hassanien, the owner of an oil products company in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura says.

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Very much aware of the potential for current tensions to flare into violence at a time of upheaval across the Middle East, the Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef asked pilgrims to leave disputes at home.

Nayef says the kingdom had drafted 95,000 members of the security forces to maintain order. Saudi Arabia is currently embroiled in a region-wide contest for influence with Shi'ite Iran, with each side accusing the other of backing Syria's bloody civil war.

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Saudi Arabia has also given Egypt billions of dollars to help prop up the economy and support the generals who in July ousted a government led by Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Sunni Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Saudi leaders see the organization as a direct threat to their dynastic rule. Feelings are running high among pilgrims from the most populous Arab nation but they say they do not plan to cause unrest.

"Before coming to haj, we agreed not to talk about politics to avoid any problems in this country," a retired government employee from the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria said.

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