November 27th, 2009. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims at the hajj shouted out familiar slogans on Mt. Arafat on Thursday while Americans celebrated Thanksgiving with their families:
“Death to America, death to Israel”
The time on Mt. Arafat is supposed to be a day of reflection and reading of the Koran. However, the Iranian pilgrims believed that it was more important to try to unify the Muslims on hajj against the major enemies of Islam-the USA and Israel along with all infidels in general.
Ayatollah Muhammed Rishari led the Iranian delegation and proclaimed:.
“We need to be purified from our wrongdoings in this hajj.”
“We need all Muslims, Sunni and Shiite, to be unified and focus on important issues: Al-Aqsa (mosque in Jerusalem), the occupation of Palestine, the problems in Iraq, the Afghan occupation, and the fighting between brothers in Yemen. We need be purified from all infidels.”
Response: The Hajj is supposed to be the holiest event of the year in Islam and for some the holiest of a lifetime carried out in the holiest places for Muslims on earth. It is instructive that one of the major Shiite leaders would take that opportunity to call for Muslims to unite in Jihad against America and Israel plus all infidels in general.
Muslim leaders in this country are always trying to convince us that Islam is substantially a ‘religion of peace’ but examples like this drown out their efforts and emphasize how much the call to war and violence is part and parcel of the normative Muslim experience in the Middle East.
We would all like to believe that Islam is a religion of peace and reflective of the millions that live peacefully in our midst and in peace around the World. However Muslim leaders like Ayatollah Rishari remind us that we are still somewhat naive in our hopes for a peaceful Islam.