Pilgrims observe the final rites of Hajj as Muslims in Middle East celebrate Eid Al-Adha

Agencies
June 16, 2024

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Masses of pilgrims on Sunday, May 16, embarked on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Saudi Arabia. The ritual marks the final days of Hajj pilgrimage and the start of the Eid Al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world.

The stoning is among the final rites of the Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It came a day after more than 1.8 million pilgrims congregated on a sacred hill in Mount Ararat outside the holy city of Makkah, which Muslim pilgrims visit to perform the annual five-day rituals of Hajj.

The pilgrims left Mount Arafat on Saturday evening to spend their night in a nearby site known as Muzdalifa, where they collected pebbles they have used in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil.

The pillars are in another sacred place in Makkah, called Mina, where Muslims believe Ibrahim’s faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son Ismail. Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but then God stayed his hand, sparing his son. In the Christian and Jewish version of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac.

Pilgrims will spend the next three days in Mina, where they walk long distances on pedestrian-only streets toward a multi-story complex housing large pillars. There, they cast seven pebbles each at three pillars in a ritual meant to symbolize the casting away of evil and sin.

While in Mina, they will visit Makkah to perform “tawaf,” circumambulation, which is circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque counterclockwise seven times. They will make another circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf, at the end of Hajj and as they prepare to leave the holy city.

The rites coincide with the four-day Eid Al-Adha, which means “Feast of Sacrifice,” when Muslims with the financial means commentate Ibrahim’s test of faith through slaughtering livestock and animals and distributing the meat to the poor.

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads and remove the shroud-like white garments worn during the pilgrimage, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal and rebirth.

Most of the pilgrims then leave Makkah for the city of Madinah, about 340 kilometers away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

All Muslims are required to make the Hajj once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. Many wealthy Muslims make the pilgrimage more than once. The rituals largely commemorate the accounts of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail, Ismail’s mother Hajjar and Prophet Muhammad, according to the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed Hajj in 2024, Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah said in a briefing, slightly less than last year’s figures when 1.84 million made the rituals.

Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. It is set for the second week of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar, so its time of the year varies. And this year the pilgrimage fell in the burning summer of Saudi Arabia. The heat soared to 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 F) at Mount Arafat on Saturday.

This year’s Hajj came against the backdrop of the devastating Israel-Hamas war, which has pushed the Middle East to the brink of a regional conflict.

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News Network
July 7,2024

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Henley & Partners Passport Index revealed India's passport strength improved by three position in 2024. The Indian passport is currently ranked 80th place as it has weakened during the past ten years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. It has dropped from 76th position to 80th. 

The Index is based on exclusive International Air Transport Authority (Iata) data. In addition, publicly available and reliable online sources were also used to cross-check each passport against all 227 possible travel destinations.

List of countries Indian nationals can visit visa-free or get visa-on-arrival in 2024:

Africa: Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde islands, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zimbabwe

Asia: Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macao (SAR China), Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines (valid or unexpired American, Japanese, Australian, Canadian, Schengen, Singapore or UK visa, or permanent residence permit from these states) Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste

Americas: Bolivia, El Salvador

Caribbean: Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago

Oceania: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

Middle East: Jordan, Oman, Qatar

NOTE for UAE: As of December 6, 2023, Indian nationals with a normal passport valid for a minimum of six months from the arrival date, holding a visit visa or green card issued by the US which is valid for a minimum of six months or a UK or EU residence ID which is valid for a minimum of six months, can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days for a charge of Dh191 (subject to change). They can apply to extend their stay for an additional 14 days for Dh250 (subject to change) through Amer offices in Dubai.

Indian nationals holding an extension letter for US residency are not eligible for a visa on arrival. (According to a note published on Emirates airline website).

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News Network
July 8,2024

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A leading general medical journal has estimated that the death toll from Israel’s genocidal war on the Gaza Strip could be 186,000 or even more, translating to 7.9 percent of the population in the Palestinian territory.

In a report published on Friday, The Lancet said the figure includes both direct and indirect deaths from the Israeli onslaught and those still buried under the rubble in the besieged Gaza.

The journal added that it had applied a conservative estimate of four indirect deaths per one direct death reported by the Gaza Health Ministry.

“It is not implausible to estimate that up to 186,000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza,” it said.

Israel unleashed its brutal Gaza offensive on October 7 after the Palestinian Hamas resistance group carried out its historic operation against the occupying entity in retaliation for the regime’s intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Tel Aviv regime has so far killed at least 38,514 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in Gaza. The ministry announces the death toll only after receiving the dead bodies. 

The figure provided by the ministry is “likely an underestimate,” The Lancet said. “The total death toll is expected to be large given the intensity of this conflict; destroyed health-care infrastructure; severe shortages of food, water, and shelter; the population’s inability to flee to safe places; and the loss of funding to UNRWA, one of the very few humanitarian organizations still active in the Gaza Strip.”

It also called for an immediate and urgent ceasefire in Gaza accompanied by measures to enable the distribution of medical supplies, food, clean water, and other resources for basic human needs.

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News Network
July 6,2024

Mangaluru: District minister Dinesh Gundu Rao directed the district administration of Dakshina Kannada to conduct an inquiry into the alleged substandard work in the Riverfront project, which is being undertaken by Mangaluru Smart City Limited (MSCL) in the city.

At a Karnataka Development Programme (KDP) meeting on Friday, MLC Ivan D’Souza and Mangaluru City South MLA D Vedavyas Kamath brought the issue of the collapse of a retaining wall constructed by the side of the Nethravati River in Boloor to the minister’s attention.

The minister stated that a detailed report should be submitted within a week. Raising the issue, D’Souza mentioned that despite having access to advanced technologies, MSCL has failed to ensure the quality of work.

He added that people have been blaming the representatives for the lapses of officials. Officials of the MSCL explained that a 740-metre-long retaining wall was constructed by the side of the river, as part of the 2.1km riverfront project. Since soil could not be filled during the work, a portion of the retaining wall, about 12-metres-long, collapsed during the rain. The contractor has been asked to reconstruct the wall, the official said.

In response to a query, an MSCL official stated that two cases pertaining to the riverfront project are pending before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

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