Don't Link Hajj To Terrorism Say Muslims

Posted: 6 Zul-Hijjah 1423, 8 February 2003

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/8/03) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today expressed concern that Friday's announcement of a rise in the national terror alert from yellow to orange seemed to link the Muslim religious observance of Hajj to terrorism.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Hajj, or pilgrimage to the city of Makkah, is a once-in-a-lifetime journey of spiritual purification, repentance and renewal, not an excuse for killing innocent people. Hajj is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

In his news conference announcing the new terror alert, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the decision to increase the threat level was based on intelligence pointing to a possible attack timed to coincide with the Hajj.

"The unnecessary linkage of Hajj to terrorism merely serves to promote the growing perception in the Muslim world that the war on terrorism is in reality an attack on Islam. That perception damages our nation's interests and could generate increased suspicion of and discrimination against ordinary Muslims. Hajj has nothing to do with terrorism. To imply otherwise is an insult to the American Muslim community. Attorney General Ashcroft needs to clarify his position on this important issue," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

He said this is not the first time the administration has linked Islamic religious observances to terrorism. In the past, similar government alerts were issued during the month-long Ramadan fast.