Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Your Mark...

...And GO!

Today is the beginning of the Hajj, an annual event in which Muslims must trample each other running figure eights around a big black cube which contains a rock inside a bedpan.

Oh, and it's fresh and yummy rock, too:

Touching or kissing the Black Stone has a profound impact on the faithful as it is suppose to count in their favor on judgment day. The great Muslim traveler from Valencia, Ibn Jubayr (1145 - 1217) describes the emotion he felt on touching the stone; The stone, when one kisses it, has a softness and freshness which delights the mouth, so much so that he who places his lips upon it wishes never to remove them. It suffices, moreover, that the Prophet said that it is the Right Hand of God on Earth.

Amazing. It's a bit like those folks that see the Virgin Mary in their toast, except Islamists built a palace around theirs.

In any case, I am of the opinion that Mohammad mandated the trip to Mecca as a tourist revenue scheme, making it mandatory for the 'faithful' and reinforcing it by having them pray towards it five times a day.

But now the 'faithful' Muslim has more to worry about than the cost of getting to Mecca... What happens if he gets the swine flu while he's there?

I. Shit. You. Not.

For many Muslims it's the journey of a lifetime: making the Hajj pilgrimage. Almost 3 million faithful, together, in the city ofMecca, Saudi Arabia. But this year, the Hajj could become an incubator for the H1N1 virus.

At a Muslim community center in Duluth, Georgia, American Muslims pray and prepare for the Hajj. Lateefa Khan is here with her husband, Zakerullah. She has mixed emotions. They are leaving their children behind but say they look forward to the worship.

"It is very exciting. An amazing experience," Khan says. "I am looking forward to worshipping, focusing all my time on worshipping."

Khan will take precautions to avoid H1N1, also known as swine flu, at the Hajj. They'll carry hand sanitizer and will be "frequently washing our hands, trying to stay as clean as possible."

The Khans, along with a number of people at the center who are going on the Hajj, also are getting H1N1 inoculations.

Dr. Asif Saberi gives them a short lecture on how to prepare and encourages everyone to have their shots at least seven days before traveling. He says the Saudi government is doing a lot to protect pilgrims, but "the magnitude of the problem is the magnitude of the numbers of people who attend the Hajj."

When it comes to using hand sanitizer and wearing masks, Saberi says he encounters confusion about religious dictates and flu prevention. According to Muslim beliefs, for example, men in a state of pilgrimage should not wear any stitched items or touch alcohol. So what about wearing face masks or using alcohol-based sanitizers?

Now there's a pickle, eh?

I think it's hilarious that Muslims are getting swine flue vaccines so they can go to Hajj. I wonder if the pilgrimage makes up for that, or do they have to kill a few extra infidels or Jews to make up for that one?

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