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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 19:30 GMT
Fear kept Americans from Hajj
Pilgrims on the Hajj
All able Muslims are expected to attend the Hajj once
The number of American Muslims attending the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has dropped massively amidst fears of the consequences of openly stating their religion.

In all only 7,000 flew to Mecca from the US - significantly down on previous years - even though every Muslim is expected to go once in their lifetime.

Faz Rahman, a spokesman for the American Muslim council, said a tide of media outrage directed at immigrants was behind the fears.

"We do have these immigration problems, especially in the Muslim community," Mr Rahman told the BBC World Service's Reporting Religion programme.

"It's been widely publicised and created a lot of negative publicity."


He added that a crackdown by American immigration control was making people nervous about leaving the US.

"One gentleman who left for Jordan wasn't allowed back into the country.

"That makes a big difference - those who had the slightest doubt about their papers did not leave for the Hajj."

The numbers were also lower because some American Muslims were afraid of openly revealing their religion.

Others were afraid they might be placed under surveillance or fingerprinted.

Mr Rahman said there was now a climate of mistrust of Muslims in America following the events of 11 September 2001.

"Looking at the bigger picture, Muslims have been portrayed in the media as people who don't really have genuine loyalties to the country," Mr Rahman contended.

"That is totally wrong.

"That makes Muslims uncomfortable - they are seen in a very negative light."

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