Muslims at haj worried about Trump’s policies

MECCA: Even at Islam's holiest sites and during the most sacred time of year for Muslims, some people cannot stop talking about Donald Trump.

Among one group of US, Canadian and British pilgrims in Mecca for the annual haj, the US president and policies they say target Muslims and immigrants are a regular conversation topic.

"People are irritated, angry, somber, a little bit worried," said Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic scholar from Tennessee.

"No one that I know is happy at the current circumstances or the current administration. No one, not a single person in this entire gathering."

As a candidate, Trump proposed barring Muslims from entering the US.

In office, he ordered temporary bans on people from several Muslim-majority countries, which have been blocked by courts that ruled they were discriminatory.

Many American Muslims say his stance has fuelled an atmosphere in which some may feel they can voice prejudices or attack Muslims without fear of retribution.

American Wajahat Ali said friends back home had asked him to pray for the US while on haj, and other pilgrims he met offered sympathies and encouragement that the situation would improve.

Malaysian pilgrim Abdul Azim Zainul Abideen said the president should stop what he called his attacks on Islam.

"We don't have anything against any Americans or non-Muslims," he said.

His sister, 27-year-old Anisa, said she was worried by reports of an uptick in violence against Muslims in the US "just because of wearing hijab (headscarf) in the streets or just because you have a beard".

Islamophobia is a common subject at meals and while waiting in lines to pray.

"Muslims are now more aware of the different political situation," said Yusuf Badat, an imam from Toronto.

Saudi Arabia, which stakes its reputation on organizing the haj, has urged pilgrims to put aside political concerns and focus on spirituality.

But Islamophobia is a common subject at meals and while waiting in long lines to pray and conduct rituals.

"Muslims across the world are now more aware of the different political situation," said Yusuf Badat, an imam from Toronto.

"They're all working together to try and have a better image for themselves because many times the coverage is given to ISIS and these types of fringe groups."

Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, has carried out or inspired deadly attacks around the world after proclaiming a self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria to rule over all Muslims. The ultra-violent group has been widely denounced by Muslim religious and political leaders.

Baha al-Deen, a pilgrim from ex-Soviet Georgia, said any labeling of Muslims as terrorists should stop.

"God gave us minds and tongues so we can understand each other and talk about our problems," he said.

"Otherwise we will fight like animals." – Reuters