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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Shia devout gear up to visit Iraq despite violence

HT Correspondent/Jeelani, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, June 18, 2014
First Published: 19:15 IST(18/6/2014) | Last Updated: 19:21 IST(18/6/2014)

Muslims in Lucknow are keeping a close eye on the conflict ridden Iraq-miles away from the state capital. While the turmoil has failed to deter the plans of devout planning to undertake the pilgrimage to the troubled West Asian country in days to come, families of those presently on a pilgrimage have their fingers crossed about the return of their kin.
 
Undeterred by the risk, many Shia devout of the state capital are going ahead with their already scheduled visits to the war torn Iraq and neighboring Iran. They said that they would only cancel their trip if the government imposes sanctions.
 
“We had planned this pilgrimage long ago. We will go ahead with it despite the trouble there,” said Ahmad Jafar, an old city resident who with 12 friends is scheduled to undertake the pilgrimage from Lucknow on June 21. In case the government stops us, then we can’t help it, he added.
 
Pertinently, any disturbance in Iraq assumes significance for Shias of the city because it houses pilgrimage sites including the Karbala, which the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, have threatened to destroy. The ISIS has waged a war to establish an Islamic state in the country.
 
“I have completed all the preparations. I hope things would settle down in days to come. I am still going ahead with the plan,” said Shakeel Kazmi, another Shia devout from Hussainabad locality in old city.

Apart from Iraq, hundreds of Shia devout from Lucknow also visit neighboring Iran and Syria for ziarat (pilgrimage) of the Shite shrines either in tour groups or individually. The rush increases in holiday season which is on currently Pilgrimage purposes aside, some people from Lucknow are also their for seeking religious education.
 
Recalling the ordeal he witnessed during his recent pilgrimage Mohd Mehdi Zaidi, 52, of Mufti ganj locality in Lucknow said that the conflict was a routine for the locals in Iraq but a cause of worry for outsiders. Zaidi, who returned a few days ago, however is worried about some of his family members and friends who are yet to return.
 
“Phone and Internet are not functioning properly. We somehow managed to talk to some of the relatives. They told us are left with no security and there is little the Indian government can do at the moment,” added Zaidi, a retired engineer. 
 
Like Mehdi, Sajad Hussain and Kazim Rizvi from old city who have just returned after the pilgrimage are praying for the safe return of their near and dears who are yet to return.

 “People in Iraq are now used to the violence. It’s like Shia Sunni conflict of Lucknow. We pray that those trapped in the conflict return safely,” they added.


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