How Hajj Makes for the Moderate Muslim
Hajj is one the greatest equalizers for Muslims. So instead of pushing Pakistani, Afghani, or Iraqi Muslims towards extremism through war efforts, why not put U.S. dollars into helping them go for the Hajj?
BY: Hesham Hassaballa
An extremely effective way to do so is to send more people to the Hajj, especially those who are susceptible to becoming extremists. As an American, I am quite blessed to be able to go to the Hajj quite easily. The same cannot be said, however, of other Muslims around the world. As professor Fishman noted, "The Hajj is a huge expense for a typical Pakistani. The cost of making the trip starts at $2,500, nearly three times Pakistan's average income. Poor families save for years in order to attend ... Despite these hardships, there are many more Pakistanis who wish to go to Mecca each year than there are Saudi visas. In 2006, nearly 140,000 applicants vied for 80,000 visas through the Pakistan government's Hajj program."
We should help these and other Muslims go and perform the Hajj. I remember how happy the Muslims with whom I came into contact felt being in Mecca and performing the pilgrimage. You could see and feel it from their faces. For them, it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip because they save their whole lives in order to go. The authorities should relax visa restrictions and let more people attend the Hajj. True, it is crowded already, and the prospect of letting more people go on the Hajj could make the already difficult crowding situation worse.
But one solution to this problem is place restrictions on repeat Hajjis—those who go more than once. There are some Muslims who even go every year. There should be a rule that if you have already made the Hajj, you should not go again (for at least a certain number of years) in order to make more room for other Muslims who have yet to go.
Yes, we must stay on the offensive against those "die hard" terrorist murderers who will stop at nothing to shed innocent blood. Yes, we must fight them to the very end. But, we must also dry the swamps of intolerance and ignorance from which future terrorists are spawned. As the evidence shows, a very effective way to do just that is to help Muslims in need go to the Hajj. I echo professor Fishman's call to direct some of our aid to help more Muslims from around the world make that life-changing trip to Mecca.
Not only will it fulfill a life dream for those Muslims, but it will also go a long way to foster good will and positive feelings between Muslims and the West. Imagine what good will come out when an ordinary Muslim in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, or anywhere else gets the news: "You are going to Mecca this year, and your trip was paid for by the United States of America." It will be money extremely well-spent.