Iraqis Demand Better Security for Pilgrims

Citizens, journalists and various political elites have increased their demands for binding religious rituals to laws and regulations. These demands have echoed in the Karbala provincial council. On Dec. 14, 2014, the council called for the establishment of a Religious Rituals Ministry to be tasked with regulating religious pilgrimages.

On May 19, the Sunni leader of the National Forces Alliance, Zafer al-Ani, criticized the government’s preparedness for the Kadhimiya visitors, while ignoring the displaced of Anbar.

Writer and social media activist Mona al-Hussein told Al-Monitor, “There is an exaggerated obsession about the practice of religious rituals, by ignorants or by those who benefit from exaggerating them.”

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Haidar Zweir, a political talk show host on al-Iraqiya — a satellite TV channel funded and supported by the government, but claims its discourse is independent — called for the development of mechanisms to prevent these events from being blown out of proportion.

Journalist Walid al-Taee told Al-Monitor, “It is necessary to establish an institution governing the Shiite rituals and procession of visitors to protect them from any harm and govern their administrative and logistic work.”

Taee’s call is not new. On Dec. 25, 2014, the Islamic Virtue Party’s parliamentary bloc had already called for the establishment of an independent body for religious rituals to govern religious pilgrimage.

On May 16, the religious authority in Iraq reiterated the call for the formation of an administrative body governing the visits to holy shrines.

Despite the calls to reduce and organize the number of visitors, they are still pouring in massive numbers into holy Shiite places, driven by their belief that pilgrimage is a god-given duty. On June 3, the number of visitors during al-Ziyara al-Shaabaniya reached around 6 million people.

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