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Bay area Muslims react to Mecca tragedy

Posted: 2:52 AM, Sep 25, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-25 02:52:31-04

Thousands of Bay Area Muslims gathered at the Florida State Fairgrounds Thursday to mark the end of the Haj and the holy feast of Eid.

The tragedy that killed more than 700 and injured even more just outside Mecca was on everyone's mind, but did not darken what may be the most culturally diverse gathering in Tampa Bay.  

Making a pilgrimage to Mecca is considered an obligation for every able bodied Muslim who can afford it,  at least once in their lives.

More than two million people come from around the world for the annual Haj.   Council for American Islamic Relations director, Hassan Shibly remembers his visit fondly.

"You run into Muslims from every race, culture and language.  You bump into somebody and you don't know how to say, 'I'm sorry'. You just smile and nod and say 'Salam' which means peace" said Shibly.

But many of the estimated 10,000 local Muslims who attended Thursday's  observance of Eid at the fairgrounds could be seen having  worried phone calls. Nobody we talked to had a personal loss, but Shibly says the reaction would be mixed.

The Haj is believed to be the largest annual gathering of people on the planet.   And though the Saudi Government has spent billions making safety improvements, these mass stampede deaths still happen with some regularity.

Those gathered in Tampa expressed no hesitation to make the pilgrimage.  Muslims believe that if you have God's love, he will take you at a time when you're closest to him.

"Of course we would never wish that on anyone that they would lose their life especially if they're young and so early in their life. But at the same time, to be taken by God at a time that you're worshipping God is an honor.
    
One of the worst Haj disasters prior to this one occurred in 1990. More than 14 hundred pilgrims died when a crowd surged inside a pedestrian tunnel.