Hoping to decrease accidents and boost tourism, Saudi has built a railway line to improve transport for millions of Muslims who flock to the kingdom on the annual haj and move en masse from one holy site to another. At least 2.5 million pilgrims are expected to perform the haj, which began on Sunday. One of the world’s biggest religious gatherings, it has been marred in the past by stampedes, accidents and political demonstrations.
(Photo: Pilgrims at Mena, near Mecca, November 14, 2010/Mohammed Salem)
At least 2.5 million Muslims began the annual haj pilgrimage on Sunday, heading to an encampment near the holy city of Mecca to retrace the route taken by the Prophet Mohammad 14 centuries ago.
Sitting in the marble lobby of a luxury hotel in Mecca, Moroccan bank director Mohammad Hamdosh gets a breather from the cacophony of pilgrims bustling around the Grand Mosque in Islam’s holiest city. Millions have flocked to the city in Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage, a duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. But some can afford more than others, and a controversial construction boom is catering to their needs.
(Photo: Women in headscarves in the Taksim area of Istanbul July 13, 2008/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Along Istanbul’s busy Eminönü waterfront, women swathed in dark coats and scarves knotted once under the chin jostle past others clad in vivid colors and head coverings carefully sculpted around the face. Two decades ago such a polished, pious look scarcely existed in Turkey. But today it has the highest profile exponents in First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s wife Emine, and the brands behind it plan ambitious expansion.
(Photo: Building boom in Azerbaijan capital Baku, 3 Nov 2010/Osman Karimov)
The view from Nardaran’s vast sandstone mosque sweeps down through roses to the Absheron peninsula and the Caspian sea from which Azerbaijan derives its wealth. Devotion to Islam defines life in this dusty coastal village, where walls carry Koranic verses and social grievances against this strictly controlled former Soviet republic find voice in religion.
The prominence of Britain’s Muslim minority in the nation’s debate about security and social cohesion provides the backdrop to journalist Zaiba Malik‘s memoir of growing up a British Muslim of Pakistani descent.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on a visit to an mosque in Indonesia on Wednesday, not a requirement for a non-Muslim but a sign of the Obamas’ efforts to show respect for the Islamic world.
(Photo: A protest against U.S. President Barack Obama in Jakarta November 9, 2010/Dadang Tri)
President Barack Obama’s pledge on Wednesday in Jakarta to strive for better relations with the Muslim world drew skepticism in Cairo, where last year he called for a new beginning in the Middle East after years of mistrust.
When U.S. President Barack Obama first addressed the Muslim world in its traditional heartland last year, his speech was laden with references to the past, to Islam and to the tensions plaguing the Middle East. Updating his speech on Wednesday on the far eastern fringe of that world, his upbeat remarks about Indonesia’s democracy, development and diversity spelled hope for the future.
(Photo: Pope Benedict meets religious leaders in Nazareth, May 14, 2009, with many Muslim clerics in white and red turbans in the audience/Atef Safadi)
Israeli authorities have charged the imam of a mosque in Nazareth with inciting violence against Pope Benedict and supporting al Qaeda and “global jihad,” the justice ministry has said.