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Haj tragedy shocks local Muslim community

This week's tragedy at the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca known as the haj, in which hundreds perished during a stampede of believers, has been received with sadness by Bermuda's Muslims.

“This tragedy has truly shocked me and I was horrified to note the number of deaths increasing during the aftermath,” said Shabnam Jheengoor, a spokeswoman for the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

“Muslims travel for the haj with hearts full of devotion and love for God Almighty — 717 lives lost while engaged in this spiritual endeavour is very saddening.”

The crush occurred during a final major rite of devotion, a symbolic stoning of the Devil in which seven stones are cast at pillars known as Jamarat along the route.

Basim Muwwakkil, Imam at the Island's mosque the Masjid Muhammad, withheld comment until further details emerged on how the incident occurred.

“It's my prayer and, I am sure, the prayer of every Muslim that Allah Almighty elevate the status of those who have passed away and grant speedy recovery to the injured,” Ms Jheengoor said.

The haj is one of the most fundamental Muslim practices, she said, and one that she prays to be granted the opportunity to fulfil in the near future.

There are roughly 600 Muslims on the Island, none of whom are believed to have been at the holy city during the incident, in which about 800 people were injured.

“The haj does not involve any type of inherent danger,” Ms Jheengoor added.

“The haj is composed of a number of set rituals to be completed on specific days and specific order.

“None of the rituals are inherently dangerous. Additionally, the authorities try their utmost to maintain security and provide pilgrims with all facilities.

“It is true that this is not the first time there has been a stampede during the haj. Such stampedes claimed numerous lives in the past.

In January 2006, a stampede claimed 346 lives.

However, the authorities did implement measures to reduce risks of such stampedes. This tragedy is an unfortunate incident due to some unforeseen circumstances which at this time are not clear.

“However, I am certain stricter measures will be implemented to reduce such tragedies in the future.

The King of Saudi Arabia has ordered a full review.”

Disaster aftermath: This image released by the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, shows ambulances in Mecca, after people were crushed by overcrowding in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual haj pilgrimage on Thursday. Hundreds were killed and injured, Saudi authorities said. The crush happened in Mina, a large valley about three miles from the holy city of Mecca that has been the site of haj stampedes in years past (Photograph by Saudi Press Agency via AP)

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Published September 26, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated September 26, 2015 at 2:22 am)

Haj tragedy shocks local Muslim community

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