The horrific deaths of people at the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holy places are truly tragic. Several score pilgrims died at the beginning of the hajj while several hundred perished at the end. The Saudi government perversely places the blame on pilgrims for both disasters. However, during the past quarter century, hardly a year has gone by without some preventable loss of life. It is clear that an inept and corrupt Saudi ruling class should not be assigned the continued task for organising the biggest annual assembly of humanity. They have repeatedly failed in this sacred duty.
The haramayn (Makkah and Madinah) are the collective patrimony of the entire worldwide Muslim community and not the exclusive fiefdom of a repressive and fundamentalist monarchy. It is high time that Islam’s holiest sites are placed under proper international jurisdiction to be run by efficient, elected and responsible administrators. The latest (largely avoidable) catastrophes at the hajj make the internationalisation of the haramayn an Islamic imperative. Not only would the creation of an independent state (comprising Makkah and Madinah) bring about more effective management of the hajj, but it would also consign the writ of extremist Wahhabi ideology back to its origins in the primitive Arabian hinterland. The early establishment of this new sovereign entity will be liberating for Muslims the world over.
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