This piece, from September 2015, was published on RNZ.
Thousands of Muslims gathered this morning across New Zealand in prayer to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the biggest religious holiday in the Islamic world.
But what is normally a time for celebration was bittersweet, following the news that between 700 and 1000 pilgrims had been killed in a crush outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca.
It is the second tragedy of its kind this year; earlier this month a crane collapsed into the Grand Mosque and killed 107 worshippers, less than two weeks before the five-day Hajj began.
Hundreds of New Zealanders perform the Hajj each year, including Auckland-based Cam Russell, who took part in 2010.
He said that Mecca was very built-up and commercialised, which created jams of people between the various pilgrimage locations. Mr Russell said he could easily imagine how the crush occurred.
“Looking at photos as to where this tragic event [happened] is no surprise to me… The corridor between the architecturally amazing edifice known as the Jamaraat Bridge and the equally amazing Mina tent city [is] a ridiculous bottleneck, as there are temporary-looking expensive restaurants encroaching on this corridor. No way can pilgrims be blamed for a ‘stampede’ here.”
The rest of the piece is available here.