Muslim pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars symbolizing Satan, during the annual haj pilgrimage, on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Mina

2014 Haj in Saudi Arabia with millions gathered.

Most of us here don’t understand the day to day life in a Muslim country with a religious leaning governemnt. One thing very different for us is the way religion effects the daily schedule and planning your business day around the call to pray.

We are used to business non stop 7 days a week but in Saudi Arabia when the call to pray goes out business stops. If you are in a mall the stores close and you wait in the halls for the 25 minutes or so to pass. Of course you could do your own praying. If you happen to be seated in a restaurant than you wait as the employees go to pray or if they aren’t Muslim they still can’t serve you.

Then the next thing is all the holidays. I had an office in Riyadh for many years and it is something you have to learn to adjust to remembering you  aren’t in America. The two big holidays are Ramadan and Eid al-daha or Haj which is going on now. It is the 3 day pilgrimage to Mecca  as millions of Muslims come from all over the world to celebrate. This year was different at Haj as:


Taking aim at Islamic State, Saudi Arabia has mounted a battle for hearts and minds at this year’s haj, warning pilgrims that the hardline group is “evil” and seeking to recruit their children to fight in Iraq and Syria.

As millions of pilgrims visited the holiest sites in Islam on the second day of the annual pilgrimage on Saturday, global leaders condemned the fourth beheading of a Westerner by Islamic State insurgents.

Saudi Arabia declared Islamic State a terrorist organization in March and sharply stepped up denunciations of the group after its fighters made rapid territorial gains in Iraq in June.

U.S.-led air strikes on the group has allowed some of the lost territory to be recaptured, but the well-armed militants continue to make gains in Iraq and Syria. Last week, Saudi air force planes pounded militant targets in Syria.

The group’s radical Sunni Islamist ideology is gaining traction elsewhere in the Muslim world: A group in Algeria pledged allegiance before killing a French hostage last month, and Pakistani Taliban also declared their support on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia follows the ultra conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam,
and the  Islamic State, like al Qaeda, draws some of its ideology from the Wahhabi school, but it rejects the legitimacy of the Saudi government and has vowed to topple the ruling Al Saud dynasty. This is where in Saudi that religion and secular governemnt part ways. The ruing family has given leave way to the religious leaders to practice Shara law as long as it doesn’t threaten them but both al-Qaeda and ISIL want to over throw the ruling family in Saudi.

The clerics are preaching “Your religion is targeted. Your security, ideology, strength and intellect are all targeted,” the kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh preached to the vast crowds of pilgrims in Mecca on Friday.

About three million Muslims, among them 1.4 million from abroad, with them a large group from America, are expected to perform haj this year.

“The enemies of Islam are making preparations against you, so be wary of them,” the Grand Mufti said in his sermon at mount Arafat’s Nimara mosque.

Sheikh Abdallah bin Ali Basfar, a religious lecturer who is involved in the kingdom’s “awareness” campaign, said the Ministry of Islamic Affairs had instructed preachers to denounce Islamic State as a “terrorist organization” in their sermons and teachings. This is a  time that I support the governemnt telling the preachers what to say.

“We have a job to warn people against the evil these groups present and how they use concepts in Islam like jihad as a cover for their unjust causes,” Basfar said.

“There are 70,000 sheikhs and preachers in Saudi Arabia who have an incredible amount of influence on people. That’s why we are concentrating our efforts to fight these deviant thoughts, especially during haj,” he said.
The campaign also includes the distribution of religious material representing what the government believes to be more moderate views of Islam, as well as broadcasting more religious programs on radio and television to spread these views.

In addition, preachers have also been warning parents to monitor the actions of their children.”These evil groups prey on our youth through mediums like the Internet and parents must start to know what their children are doing and who they talk to,” Basfar said

Most of the pilgrims seem to be receptive to the campaign by stating “We follow our preachers and we follow the Saudi government which opposes them and we believe our sheikhs.”

Religious leaders in the kingdom who have expressed sympathy for Islamic State fighters had been identified to the authorities, Basfar said. Some were peddling a theory that the group was formed by the West to weaken the Muslim world.

The clerics and the Saudi governemnt believe that “Muslims are the only ones that could defeat them. Islamic State in the end is an idea, that can only be fought with another idea.”

I believe they are correct but we in America as country have to be the leader, a strong leader, of the free world to help hold back the forces of evil that will continue to spring up even after ISIS is gone.

Stay informed, Be alert Be Safe.

More later,