Saturday, December 30, 2006

‘Haj Highlights Islamic Tolerance, Equality’
Syed Faisal Ali, Arab News
MINA, 31 December 2006 — The face of true Islam and its worldwide diaspora was evident during the Standing on the plains of Arafat, the climax of Haj, on Friday. The pilgrims that converged here represented a living testimony of the sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood.

“There are hundreds and thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world,” said Ibrahim Abu-Nasser, a pilgrim who came from the United States. “They are of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans ... Islam is the only religion which not only preaches but follows the principle of equality. It embodies compassion, charity and self-righteousness.”

Qassim Najeeb, a British haji, agrees. “The whole world, particularly the modern West, needs to understand Islam better because this is the one religion that erases from society racism and disparity. Everyone here is considered guests of Allah and hence equal in everyway,” he said.

“The West, which is suffering from a resurgence of racism, is trying to create awareness about casteless and colorless society. But this message was given 1,400 years ago by our Prophet,” Najeeb said.

Essamuudin Abdul Razik, a North American pilgrim, said he believed that Islam was the answer to all social ills.

“I wish those who spit venom get to see this concept in practice here so that they get a feel for Islam,” he said.

Indian-American pilgrim Asad Alam said all Muslims could feel at home equally on the plains of Arafat.

“Going to Haj shows how universal Islam is. People of all colors and ethnic groups speaking different languages felt at home in Arafat, greeting and helping each other like brothers,” Alam said. “There is a mindset in the West that Muslims are intolerant and rigid in their behavior, beliefs and thoughts. But on the contrary, they are very tolerant and accommodating in all walks of life.”

Ekram Saleh, an Egyptian-born British national, said he believes that Islam created the concept of social security through Zakah, the compulsory tax Muslims must pay to help the needy.

“It entails that every Muslim has certain obligations toward society,” said Saleh. “Have you ever seen people giving away food and drink in any other religious congregation? I was spellbound to see the way food and beverages are being distributed free of cost in Arafat. It is a sight worth seeing,” Saleh said.

All of the Western pilgrims agreed that there exists a profound misunderstanding of Islam in the West.

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