American, Canadian and British pilgrims in Mecca this week for the annual Hajj say they are worried about the policies of US President Donald Trump targeting Muslims.
“People are irritated, angry, sombre, a little bit worried,” said Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic scholar who travelled from Tennessee for his fourteenth pilgrimage.
“No one that I know is happy at the current circumstances or the current administration. No one, not a single person in this entire gathering.”
As a candidate, Trump proposed barring Muslims from entering the US. In office, he ordered temporary bans on people from several Muslim-majority countries, which have been blocked by courts that ruled they were discriminatory.
His administration has denied any intention of religious discrimination in
the travel ban, saying it is intended purely as a national security measure.
But sharp rhetoric about the threat posed by “radical Islam”, which was a central part of his campaign, has also drawn accusations he risks alienating more than three million Americans who practise Islam peacefully.
Many US Muslims say his stance has fuelled an atmosphere in which some may feel they can voice prejudice or attack followers of the faith without fear of retribution.
He ‘attacks Islam’
The Hajj, a five-day ritual that retraces the journey the Prophet Mohammad took 14 centuries ago, is a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
It is the world’s largest annual Muslim gathering with more than 2.3 million people attending this year.
American Wajahat Ali said friends back home had asked him to pray for the United States while on Hajj, and other pilgrims he met offered sympathy and encouragement that the situation would improve.
Malaysian pilgrim Abdul Azim Zainul Abideen said the US president should stop what he called his attacks on Islam.
“We don’t have anything against any Americans or non-Muslims,” he said on Friday at a symbolic stoning of the devil, part of the Hajj rituals.
His sister, 27-year-old Anisa, said she was worried by reports of an uptick in violence against Muslims in the United States “just because of wearing hijab in the streets or just because you have a beard”.
Saudi Arabia, which organises the Hajj, has urged pilgrims to put aside political concerns and focus on spirituality. But Islamophobia is a common subject at meals and while waiting in long lines to pray and conduct rituals.