Holy pilgrimage or junket*?
By Associated Press
MINA, Saudi Arabia — The Muslim pilgrimage of hajj is a moment of equality before God, with millions massed at Islam’s most revered sites asking for forgiveness of sins. Of course, some are more equal than others.
At VIP tents, Iraqi lawmakers and politicians in their white pilgrim robes enjoyed the luxury of soft red carpets and air conditioning, fruit baskets set up on long tables and two refrigerators with cold water and soft drinks. It’s conveniently right next to the Jamarat, the site of three walls symbolizing the devil that pilgrims lined up to pelt with stones on Monday.
It’s a stark contrast from the camp of their fellow citizens, several miles (kilometers) away, where Iraqi pilgrims crowd into stuffy tents and take hours to make their way on foot through the hot Saudi sun to reach the ritual site.
“The officials are staying at the best places with best services while we are suffering here,” said Abbas Abid Ali, a 60-year-old Shiite from Baghdad. He sat on a green plastic mattress after sunset near the Jamarat, where he and others spent the day after trekking from their camp.
“Will these officials get the same treatment on Judgment Day?” he said. “God doesn’t differentiate and care about officials and rich people.”
Several million Muslims have converged on Saudi Arabia for this year’s annual hajj, centered around the holy city of Mecca and several sites in the deserts nearby. During the current part of the rites, the pilgrims stay for several nights in a gigantic tent city sprawling around the Jamarat at Mina, about 11 miles (18 kilometers) outside Mecca, and for three days pelt the walls with stones in a symbolic rejection of the devil’s temptations.
Like everywhere, money can buy better conditions for the tiring hajj rites, such as better transport to avoid walking in the massive crowds or more comfortable tents. But some complain that political status also wins special consideration.
Iraqi politicians, for example, get a leg up on even getting the precious, limited spaces to attend hajj. While other Iraqis have to go through a lottery to go, sometimes waiting for years, members of parliament or the government can jump the line and go whenever they want.
Pergi buat haji macam pergi bercuti gamaknya.