Sunday, December 23, 2007

King Abdullah Urges Hajj Pilgrims to Respect Common Religious Values

A view of Jamrat in Mina on Thursday. (AN photo by Mohammad Ali)

From Arab News

MINA, 21 December 2007 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday urged the nearly three million faithful who came for Haj as well as Muslims all over the world to respect the common values of different religions and cultures in order to create a new world of peace and understanding.

"The leading divine religions and what is revealed to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) contain great principles and common values. They jointly present a concept of humanity and the values that differentiate humans from other creatures," the king said while receiving foreign dignitaries who came to perform Haj this year.

The annual reception at the Mina Palace was attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, Mauritanian President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, Maldives President Mamoun Abdul Qayyum, Tanzania's Vice President Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief adviser to the caretaker government in Bangladesh, and Guinean Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate. In his keynote speech, King Abdullah expressed his hope that God would accept the Haj of pilgrims and show mercy toward them by forgiving their sins.

He also told the pilgrims that they should shoulder responsibilities toward their nations, the Ummah and the whole humanity by engaging in constructive activities and showing tolerance toward people of other faiths and cultures.

"On every Haj season I ponder about these holy sites that bring together people from all over the world. I see through them the whole world of different communities, cultures, traditions, morals and beliefs. What a wonderful gathering," the king said and emphasized the need for people thinking about the common values that link them together.

King Abdullah called upon Muslims to uphold the principles of truthfulness, trustworthiness, tolerance, mutual support, equality and protection of the honor of fellow humans.

"We should also protect the family system that is the basis of every society. The lack of integrity of family, love, respect, and the spirit of giving priority to other members of family will lead to the disintegration of society," he explained. "On this great occasion, I call upon all those who hear my speech to think about the common values of religions, faiths and cultures ... get hold of the concepts of morals and family values and return to God. This will help us overcome our differences and narrow the divide between us," the king said.

Speaking at the reception, Haj Minister Dr. Fouad Al-Farsy said nearly three million pilgrims had come to perform Haj this year including 1.7 million foreign pilgrims.

He said the Kingdom's new strategy in inreasing budget allocation for education would play a big role in fighting terrorism. "Knowledge, reforms and development undoubtedly are the most powerful weapons for those who challenge terrorism and extremism."

Dr. Abdullah Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, emphasized the role of Saudi Arabia and its leaders in strengthening Muslim unity, helping Muslims to confront their challenges and establishing better relations with other cultures and peoples on the basis of justice, moderateness and tolerance.

Professor Ali Baradikoglu of Turkish Haj mission, who spoke on behalf of foreign Haj missions, commended Saudi Arabia's efforts to help millions of pilgrims perform their Haj rituals comfortably in a secure and peaceful atmosphere. He noted the brotherhood and equality displayed by pilgrims through the Haj rituals. "The humanity is need of this human brotherhood and equality to solve its problems," he added. "Peace and security will not prevail in the world if people do not show their love toward their fellow beings ... and we ask the Almighty that He may make our Haj a means to spread these feelings all over the world."

King Abdullah later held separate talks with Ahmadinejad and Abdellahi and discussed major regional and international issues as well as ways of strengthening bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, pilgrims continued the stoning the Satan ritual for the second day yesterday in an orderly manner without any accidents. Maj. Gen. Saad Al-Khilaiwi thanked pilgrims for their cooperation with security forces who were deployed to organize the stoning ritual at the Jamrat Bridge in Mina.

"The stoning at Jamrat today was excellent as we did not notice any overcrowding. Despite the bridge's capacity to hold 360,000 pilgrims per hour only 220,000 turn up per hour," Khilaiwi told Arab News. However, he blamed many domestic pilgrims who do not possess a Haj permit for squatting in public places and obstructing smooth flow of pilgrims. He said security officers deployed in Mina had played a big role in controlling the movement of pedestrian pilgrims.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is chairman of the Central Haj Committee, yesterday received Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie and commended his ministry's efforts to protect the health of pilgrims. "No contagious diseases have been reported among pilgrims," the minister said after meeting the governor.

Apart from the more than 10,000 medical personnel the ministry deploys on Haj duty, this year it recruited 180 temporary medical staff from Saudi Arabia and abroad. "These high caliber Muslim medical personnel were recruited from Pakistan, Malaysia and the Kingdom to make use of their expertise in the service of pilgrims," said Dr. Khaled Mirghalani, the ministry's official spokesman.

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