HajjEvery able bodied Muslim is supposed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca during their lifetime, and yet it seems this duty is bound to involve fatal sacrifice for some. This year 345 people have died today (as I write – the number may increase) and more than 1000 have been injured. This is despite efforts supposedly having been made to improve security at the site where stones are thrown at the Al-Jamarat wall.

The sum total of these deaths, after the 1426 in 1990, and a further 244 in February 2004, is really remarkable. 345 is more than 6 times the number killed in the London bombings! This time the deaths were supposedly due to a stampede after luggage fell off buses. Why such a panic with falling luggage? And is the area where the pilgrims pass so badly designed that nothing is in place to slow things down? Quite remarkable.

Now, as an atheist, I cannot understand the determination to go on a pilgrimage. But far worse than that is this surely unnecessary loss of life. Incredible.

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