Pilgrims defy new Saudi rule on ‘devil stoning’ ritual
• Buhari, Sultan urge peace, patriotism
• Iran condemns hajj ban on citizens
Pilgrims have defied new rules by the Saudi government on the ‘stoning of the devil’, compelling the authorities to revert to old guidelines.
The directive had been designed to prevent a repeat of the 2015 stampede, which caused the death of more than 2,000 pilgrims.
Under the new procedure, the estimated three million pilgrims would have been grouped into sets of 250, each with a Saudi guide and an assistant chosen from a participating country. Pilgrims were also not expected to proceed immediately to Makkah for Tawaf Al Ifada, as had been the practice.
Saudi authorities, at a meeting with stakeholders from African and non-Arab countries on September 5, had threatened stiff penalties, including arrest and prosecution for non-compliance. Culpable pilgrims also faced a 10-year ban from performing the hajj.
The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mohammed Mukhtar, had reiterated the determination of the commission to ensure total compliance with the new regulations.
Indications that the rules would go unheeded, however, emerged early yesterday, as pilgrims left Musdalifa, where they had camped for the night, on their way from Arafat. They trooped to the Jamarat as early as midnight, Saudi time, hours ahead of the mandated period.
In a related development, the Iranian government has condemned the ban by Saudi Arabia on its citizens from participating in this year’s hajj rites. The country also blamed the kingdom for last year’s stampede.
Cultural Consular, Islamic Republic of Iran Embassy, Saeed Omidi, flayed the action, saying: “Saudi rulers, who have obstructed and blocked the way of the fervent and faithful Iranian pilgrims to the holy house, must have reached such decision with interference of outsiders who are enemies of Islam and our country.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reiterated that patriotic Nigerians had nothing to fear in the fight against corruption, as his administration would ensure justice and fairness to all.
Speaking to reporters in Daura after attending prayers to mark Eid-el-Kabir, Buhari said those who abused public trust would face justice, and also be made to return stolen assets.
He thanked Nigerians for supporting the Federal Government’s programmes and policies, saying they were aimed at improving security, revamping the economy and combating corruption.
Also, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, stressed the need for peace and unity among Nigerians. He urged the citizens to forget their differences and find strength in diversity.