Friday, September 25, 2015

Mecca As an International City: Time to ask for "Vatican" status

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The horrific tragedies that have taken place in the Holy City of Mecca has led people all over the world to ask the question: Are the Saudi authorities at all capable of dealing with the huge crowds that come on the annual pilgrimage, the Haj rituals. In a space of less than two weeks, three horrible accidents have happened at Mecca and our hearts are are full of grief. However, it is time to think of the status of Mecca. Mecca belongs to the entire Muslim fraternity and not to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom which legitimizes its brazen dependence on Wahhabi Islam, has taken charge of the two holy cities and the key component of the Saudi kingship is the fact that the Kingdom is the "protector of the holy cities". It is obvious that the Saudi authorities are doing a poor job. The stoning of Satan, a ritual at Mina draws a crowd of nearly 2 million and unfortunately, the Saudi authorities seem to have not learnt any lessons from the mistakes of the past. Each Haj season there are accidents due to the inefficiency of the Saudi crowd management techniques. India manages the Khumb Mela which draws huge crowds of more than 3 to 4 million without major mishaps. Crowd management is needed. It is also surprising that cranes with heavy booms were at the site of the pilgrimage. The collapse of a single crane cause nearly 400 deaths. Of course, the belief that a death in Mecca assures a safe passage to Heaven is not very comforting to the bereaved families. The inability of the Saudi authorities to provide for the security of the pilgrimage necessitates a rethink on the status of the Holy City. Mecca is holy to both the Sunnis and the Shias and the Iranian authorities have always been critical of the manner in which the Saudis manage the pilgrimage. A few years back there was an unfortunate tragedy at Mecca when Iranians dressed as pilgrims fired in the Grand Mosque killing nearly 300 pilgrims. Given the importance the site has for people of Islamic faith and the frequency with which accidents are happening it is necessay to liberate Mecca from the clutches of Wahabi Islam. Like Vatican, Mecca can be made into a Sate under the control of all the important denominations of Islam and this body should undertake to regulate the Pilgrimage. Ithink this is the best solution for the ever recurring problem.

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