Rituals, some rallies mark hajj's high point
Low-key protests against US, Israel
MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia - Millions of Muslims marked the zenith of the annual hajj yesterday, praying for God's forgiveness on a rocky desert hill here where in Muslim tradition Adam and Eve were reunited after leaving Eden.
The ritual of standing at Mount Rahma is the most spiritual moment of the pilgrimage, when Muslims believe God will grant whatever prayers they make.
Among the faithful this year is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who yesterday stopped by the vast tent city where pilgrims are housed on the plateau called Mount Arafat to visit with Iranians there, Tehran's state broadcasting company said.
However, Ahmadinejad stayed away from a brief rally held by several hundred Iranian pilgrims calling on Muslims to unite against the United States and Israel, which they said "dominate the Muslim world."
The rally is an annual occurrence at hajj, arranged by the Iranian government. An envoy read a statement from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the faithful, telling them that hajj requires them to show love for God and to "expel, fight, and stand up to Satan."
"They are hatching plots in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan and pitting one section of Muslims against the other," Ayatollah Mohammadi Reyshahri said, reading the statement.
A few at the gathering shouted "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" and called the two nations the enemies of God. But there was none of the fist shaking that marks such chants at rallies back home in Iran - a nod to the hajj's traditional lack of aggressiveness, arguments, and disputes.
The protest, directed by Iranian security officers, stayed strictly inside the encampment, following Saudi rules. In the early years after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian pilgrims held public protests outside their camps during hajj rituals, leading to friction with Saudi authorities that climaxed in 1987 when a protest in Mecca turned into a clash with Saudi police that killed several hundred Iranians, Saudis, and others.