JEDDAH: SIRAJ WAHAB
Published — Sunday 27 October 2013
A visiting Pakistani-American radio journalist has commended Saudi Arabia for the successful organization of this year’s Haj.
Qamar Abbas Jafri of Voice of America’s Urdu Service described Saudi efforts “as a job well done.”
Jafri was among 200 international journalists invited by the Ministry of Culture and Information to perform Haj and report on it.
“I performed Haj and did a number of reports from the holy sites,” he told Arab News on Friday before heading back to Washington, D.C. “I am really impressed; it is a wonderful experience to be here.”
Jafri said this was his second Haj. “I performed Haj in 2004,” he said. “There is a huge difference now, in terms of the changing attitudes and the facilities provided for pilgrims.”
Jafri said he interviewed many ordinary pilgrims and their relatives to get a sense of what they felt. “I met pilgrims in Mina, Arafat, Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah, and the common refrain was that this has been a hassle-free Haj,” he said.
Jafri said he had heard many reports about hardships at the Haj. “I did not find anything of that sort,” he said.
“Everything went smoothly and according to plan. Some people may have complaints, but that should be expected in a massive congregation of 2 million people, shouldn’t it?”
He praised the Information Ministry for bringing in international journalists to see the Haj and the preparations of the Saudi authorities to make it easier and safer.
“When you come here and see with your own eyes, everything becomes credible and trustworthy,” he said. “It lends credence to our reports, and this is good for Saudi Arabia’s image.”
Jafri said the one message that he is taking away from Haj is that Islam is a religion of peace. “Islam was never a religion of terror,” he said. “Unfortunately, some people have, for their own vested interests, besmirched its image; but the fact is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never harmed anyone … All the wars during his time were defensive in nature, they were not offensive.”