Saudi Hails Hajj Success

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on November 3, 2011.

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz hailed the “success” of this year’s hajj despite fears of “chaos” in the wake of the Arab Spring, as remaining pilgrims continued final rites on Wednesday.

“We thank God for the success of this year’s hajj, which was the best pilgrimage season to ever pass,” Nayef told the commanders of hajj security forces late on Tuesday.

“Some (pilgrims) were expected to exploit the international and regional changes taking place to cause chaos. But thank God this did not happen,” SPA quoted Nayef, who also holds the interior portfolio, as saying.

The hajj — the world’s largest annual gathering — this year coincided with the Arab Spring democracy protests that have swept many nations in the region and led so far to the unseating of three autocratic leaders, in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, as protests continue in Yemen and Syria.

“What’s going on in Syria is painful,” Syrian pilgrim Abu Imad told AFP. “I’m coming here for perform pilgrimage and to pray for myself and my children.”

According to the United Nations, more than 3,500 people have been killed, most of them civilians, in Syria’s uprising that began in March.

Saudi Arabia itself had been slightly touched by the unrest as Shiites held sporadic protests in its Eastern Province a few times over the past months.

But their movement was quickly contained by authorities in the conservative Sunni kingdom.

“We thank all the pilgrims for proving that they are Muslims who respect this (hajj) rite and for being cooperative,” the prince said.

Indonesian pilgrim Hamid Eddine also believes that “pilgrims must follow instructions to gain the rewards of hajj and to smoothly perform their pilgrimage.”

Saudi security forces have several times in the past confronted Iranian pilgrims holding anti-US and anti-Israeli protests.

In 1987, Saudi police efforts to stifle such a demonstration sparked clashes in which 402 people died, including 275 Iranians.

But no incidents were reported this year as Iranian pilgrims, put at around 97,000 — the maximum allowed for Iran under a Saudi system apportioning pilgrim quotas among the world’s biggest Muslim countries — held their protests inside their own camps on Saturday.

Already strained ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia became taut last month when the United States accused Iranian officials of having a hand in a thwarted plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Iran has strongly denied involvement and emphasized “good relations” with its Arab neighbor across the Gulf.

Most of this year’s three million Muslim pilgrims had left the holy city of Mecca after after a farewell circumambulation of the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque into which is set the Black Stone, Islam’s most sacred relic.

Others completed stoning of the devil on Wednesday — a ritual, which is carried out over three days in which pilgrims must stone the three pillars said to symbolize the devil.

In previous years, hundreds of people have been trampled to death in stampedes triggered by crowds trying to get close to the pillars to take their vengeance on the devil.

But this year, the stoning, like all other rituals, passed with no major incidents.

The ritual is an emulation of Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil at the three spots where he is said to have appeared trying to dissuade the biblical patriarch from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son, Ishmael.

Saudi authorities have installed a multi-level walkway through the stone-throwing site in a bid to avoid the trampling that caused the deaths of 364 people in 2006, 251 in 2004 and 1,426 in 1990.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all those who are able to.

AFP

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Did Abbas, Dahlan Conspire to Murder Arafat?

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

arafat2 In an impromptu news conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on 12 July, Fatah Secretary-General Farouk Kaddumi revealed that Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and former Gaza strongman Muhammed Dahlan conspired to murder Yasser Arafat in connivance with Israel and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Kaddumi disclosed that Arafat had confided to him the transcript of a secret meeting involving Abbas, Dahlan , US intelligence officials as well as former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The meeting allegedly took place in March 22, 2004.

According to the document, whose authenticity couldn’t be verified independently, Sharon told Abbas and Dahlan during the meeting that Arafat should be killed by way of poisoning.

The transcript showed that Abbas protested, saying that murdering Arafat could complicate things and cause serious difficulties.

The Arabic version of the transcript showed Sharon saying the following to Abbas and Dahlan: ‘To start with, we should kill all the military and political leaders of Hamas, Jihad, al-Aqsa Brigades and the Popular Front in order to create chaos within their ranks which would make it easier for you to finish them off.’

Sharon then allegedly responded to a suggestion by Dahlan to first abide by a ‘period of calm’ by saying:

‘As long as Arafat is still sitting in the Muqata’a in Ramallah, you will definitely fail, because this cunning fox will surprise you all, as he has done in the past, because he knows exactly what you want to do and he will work to make it fail.’

Sharon then added the following: ‘The first step therefore should be to poison Arafat and to kill him. I don’t want to send him into exile unless there are guarantees from the country that will take him to place him under house arrest…’

Later on in the transcript, Sharon allegedly mentions the names of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders to be assassinated, including Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was murdered by Israel on April 17, 2004.

The document presented by Kaddumi doesn’t spell out the ultimate Israeli-American goal behind the liquidation of Arafat and the top leaders of the resistance. However, it is probably safe to deduce that endgame envisaged behind the alleged conspiracy was the creation of a collaborationist Palestinian regime whose central mission and raison d’etre would be to bully the Palestinian masses into accepting a “peace deal” with Israel that would allow the latter to impose its will and conditions on the Palestinians.

Kaddumi is an important figure in Fatah, and it is difficult to dismiss his revelations as hallucinations as his opponents have done.

Nonetheless, it is hard to indict Abbas based on these revelations. However, it is also difficult to grant him a certificate of innocence, because Abbas is not beyond suspicion and is certainly not an impeccable figure.

I remember I spoke with Sakhr Habash, a close confidante of Yasser Arafat, two days before the latter’s death, who told me that he was 100% sure that “they killed him.”

I pressed him to identify the killers, the people he was referring to. He said “you know them, these people around him, the agents of Israel .”

Dahlan

While one is prompted to speak cautiously about Abbas’s alleged role in poisoning Arafat, that is if indeed the late Palestinian leader died of poisoning, one feels freer and more confident to speak about Dahlan’s not-so-secret treacherous dealings with the Israelis and the Americans.

A few years ago, I remember I listened to a secret audio-taped briefing by Dahlan to some of his supporters at the al-Hurriya Radio in Gaza.

In the briefing, Dahlan was heard swearing to make Hamas regret the day it decided to take part in the elections of 2006.
“I will make them eat..expletive.., and if any Fatah guy dares participate in the Hamas government, I will know how to deal with him.”

Dahlan made more horrifying remarks which one would prefer not mentioning because of their poor taste.

In 2008, the American magazine “Vanity Fair” published an extensive investigative report titled “How the Bush Administration Lied to Congress and Armed Fatah to Provoke Palestinian Civil War Aiming to overthrow Hamas.”

The report pointed out that the White House tried to organize the armed overthrow of the Hamas-led government after the Islamic liberation group swept Palestinian elections in 2006.

Obviously, Dahlan was the would-be coup leader whose job was to destroy Hamas, arrest or kill its leaders in collaboration with Israel.

According to the report, the Bush administration lied to Congress and boosted military support for Fatah in the aim of provoking a Palestinian civil war they thought Hamas would lose.

Vanity Fair dubbed the episode “Iran Contra 2”-a reference to the Reagan administration’s funding of the Nicaraguan Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran.

David Wurmser, a Bush administration official, was quoted in the report as saying that he believed that “Hamas’s seizure of power in Gaza last year might have likely been a preemptive measure against the anticipated US-backed coup.”

In light, there is overwhelming evidence that Dahlan brazenly collaborated with the Israeli and American intelligence services against his own people just as it is amply clear that the current regime in Ramallah is collaborating, coordinating and conspiring with Israel to liquidate the resistance in the West Bank.

True, Abbas might argue that he played no part in plotting to murder Yasser Arafat. However, he and his regime in Ramallah can’t deny the fact that their security agencies, now trained and armed under the supervision of the American intelligence officer Keith Dayton, have been closely collaborating with Israel for the purpose of eradicating all resistance activists in the West Bank.

Indeed, the recent killings in Qalqilya recently was a damning proof, if a proof were needed, that the PA regime is just another layer of the Israeli occupation.

This, coupled with the unmitigated inquisition of hounding, repression, arrest, dismissal from jobs, seizure and closure of institutions as well as the rampancy of torture which in many instances lead to cruel death demonstrates that the PA is working in concert with Israel to harm and undermine national Palestinian interests.

This alone, and irrespective of who poisoned Arafat, is sufficient to indict the present leadership in Ramallah for collaboration with Israel and treason.

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