(PHILADELPHIA, P.A., 12/12/2006) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said today that the number of American Muslims taking part in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, is expected to increase because the religious observance falls during the winter holidays.
(American Muslims are just beginning to leave for Hajj and will be returning in early January. Some 10,000 American Muslims go on Hajj each year. To find a local mosque, go to: http://islamicfinder.org/)
Following recent allegations of “flying while Muslim” airport profiling incidents, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Philadelphia (CAIR) is advising those going on pilgrimage to be aware of their civil and legal rights as airline passengers. CAIR is also offering a toll-free hotline (1-800-784-7526) for anyone who believes their rights were violated.
In its “Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim” pocket guide, CAIR states:
“As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory. If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, immediately:
1. Ask for the names and ID numbers of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write this information down.
2. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
3. Ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
4. Ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
5. Write down a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date, and the name of the airline.
6. Contact CAIR to file a report. If you are leaving the country, leave a detailed message, with the information above at 202-488-8787.
“Given the increase in the number of complaints CAIR has received alleging airport profiling of American Muslims, we believe it is important that all those taking part in this year’s Hajj be aware of their legal and civil rights,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.
Hajj is one of the “five pillars” of the Islamic faith. (The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.) Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day of Eid ul-Adha (eed-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two major Muslim holidays.
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Q: What Does The Quran Say About Hajj?
A: In the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, God says:
“Thus We settled Abraham at the site of the House (the Ka’aba) (saying): ‘Do not associate anything with Me, and purify My house for those who walk around it, and those who stand there (praying), and those who bow down on their knees in worship.
“Proclaim the pilgrimage to all people. They will come to you on foot and on every lean (beast of burden). Let them come from every deep ravine, to bear witness to the advantages they have, and to mention God’s name on appointed days.” The Holy Quran, 22:26-28
The obligatory and optional activities of Hajj include:
* Entrance into a state of self-control called “ihram,” during which pilgrims are forbidden to harm living creatures, even insects or plants, or raise the voice in anger. The state of ihram is signified (for men) by the wearing of two pieces of unsewn white cloth. This clothing signifies the equality of all before God. No specific clothing is prescribed for female pilgrims.
* Circling (“Tawaf”) of the “Ka’aba,” the stone building Muslims believe was originally built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Ka’aba is viewed as the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. It is a symbol of unity for Muslims because all prayers, wherever they are performed, are oriented in the direction of the Ka’aba.
* The “Sa’i,” or “hastening” between two small hills near the Ka’aba, to commemorate Hagar’s search for water to offer her son Ishmael.
* The “Day of Arafah.” Arafah is a mountain and its surrounding empty plain near Mecca. On this day, the climax of the Hajj season, pilgrims assemble for supplication to God.
* The stoning of three pillars representing Satan’s temptation of Abraham. The stoning indicates the pilgrim’s rejection of evil deeds.
* Cutting the hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.
* Sacrifice of an animal to help the poor, and in remembrance of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s command. The meat is distributed to relatives and to the needy.