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The so-called hajj of Scheherezade Faramarzi, AP reporter and fraud -Ruth Nasrullah

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“Hajj intimidating for secular reporter.” That’s the headline for this article.

When I read that headline I was confused, uncertain why hajj would intimidate anyone, let alone a journalist. Unfortunately, the reference is to the hajj of Associated Press reporter Scheherezade Faramarzi , self-described “secular journalist,” who is actually participating in hajj rites simply in order to report on them. Nowhere in this article does she describe herself as a Muslim, and she acknowledges not even knowing how to pray:

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But it’s hard to concentrate — not only because I don’t really know how to pray, but also because of the shoving of other pilgrims trying to get to the front of the line.

The layers of white fabric around my head and neck were suffocating and distracting — I don’t normally wear a head scarf — and I looked with envy at the men praying next to me with their bare arms and necks.

Glancing at other worshippers, I tried to follow the prayer movements: standing straight, bowing with hands on the knees, placing the forehead on the floor as in yoga.

Based on her self-description as a “secular,” I have to assume that she is not Muslim. A secular person by definition does not practice a religion. Faramarzi does not even style herself as a “progressive Muslim.”

This brings up a couple of troubling issues – first is how she was able, as a non-Muslim, to enter Mecca, but presumably there is no test of belief required for the hajj visa, and a name alone suffices. (Which is especially ironic given that Muslims without “Muslim names,” devout though they may be, must provide the Hajj Ministry with a document attesting to their being Muslim.)

The second, more important issue is that this non-Muslim is not just reporting on hajj, but is actually participating in it.

But it was difficult to get into the state of spirituality that many secular friends promised I would reach, despite my skepticism and doubts.

I am saddened and disturbed that the Associated Press dispatched this reporter to participate in a religious ritual which they know she is not qualified for and which she approaches from a distinctly non-spiritual angle. It belittles the majesty of hajj and degrades the integrity of religion reporting.

Here’s a parallel to consider: as a Muslim, I could cover a public mass at the Vatican. With the proper education and knowledge of context, I could do a great job of it. But if I were to participate in the mass, it would be insulting and demeaning to Catholic ritual. Why would I cross myself if I don’t believe in the trinity? Why would I accept a communion wafer if I don’t believe it’s the body of Christ? Why? Because I have no respect for the fact that people believe these things. I can just do them casually, just to see what it’s all about. And you can bet that wafer will taste like no more than a cracker to me, and if I follow Faramarzi’s lead, I’d complain about the flavor.

Faramarzi’s assignment seems like a perverted attempt at “undercover” or “investigative” journalism…Let’s get in those white robes and see how it feels – and what she opts to focus on is having a man’s rear-end in her face and being distracted by construction cranes over the high-rises near the Haram.

Shame on the Associated Press for putting a fake Muslim reporter in fake ihram to perform a fake tawaf and then claim before the world that she knows firsthand what hajj is about.

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Ruth Nasrullah

    December 20, 2007 at 11:41 AM

    Update: Faramarzi’s half-hearted hajj continues.

  2. Hidayah

    December 20, 2007 at 11:44 AM

    Ya Subhan’Allah…

  3. iMuslim

    December 20, 2007 at 12:05 PM

    Ok, now i understand your reservations, Ruth, and agree that for a non-Muslim to participate in the sacred rites, does undermine the sanctity of Hajj. IMO, you still need to confirm that she really isn’t a Muslim though. I am confused by the term “secular”, because that could mean she believes in Islam, but doesn’t follow it, or at least, doesn’t let that belief affect her reporting – or that she is not a person of any religion.

  4. Anon Muslim

    December 20, 2007 at 12:39 PM

    I had seen this article in other various websites and wasn’t happy with the article. I am glad that this fake Hajj is being criticized.

    I’m guessing along with the rest of you that the reporter is a non-Muslim or a non practicing Muslim participating in Hajj. I’m not sure what’s worse, a Muslim going to Hajj so woefully unprepared or a non-Muslim purposely breaking rules about their participating in Hajj.

    But the article even on a journalistic level lacked substance. The gist of her article seems to focus on the crowds, which is nothing new, and how this is affecting her ability to concentrate on faith.

    The crowds are nothing new and if a person is barely learning the rites of Hajj basically hours before needing to perform them and doesn’t even know how to pray, how can one focus on faith when the basics aren’t even grasped?

    A poor piece of “journalism” that serves no real purpose.

  5. Ruth Nasrullah

    December 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM

    @iMuslim – Weeelll….I don’t know how to confirm her religion if she doesn’t call herself Muslim. A couple online papers called her a “secular woman from a Muslim family” – but if she does not identify herself as Muslim, how can I?

  6. Amad

    December 20, 2007 at 1:06 PM

    Yup, she is obviously aware of her fraudulent make-believe Islam and seems to be deliberately fuzzy about her Muslim identity.

    But let’s see— she never prayed her life self-admittedly. For most Muslims, that is sufficient proof that she isn’t one. Even then, we’d give her some room if she claimed “Muslim status”, but as Ruth pointed out, she didn’t.

    I really despise this whole series… it’s like someone going into my house without my permission and then telling me how messy it is!

    When you have 2-3 million people in a very tight place, from nearly every country in the world, speaking nearly every language that exists, many educated, many not… then, it isn’t as simple as putting signs and hoping people will follow. In fact, that is part of the test of our will… to not argue or fight or curse and swallow your frustration despite the pushing and shoving and all the other non-pleasantries that may go on. Just a look at the Kaba’ or the Prophet’s Mosque makes your heart fill up with faith and love for Allah.

    Also I found it interesting how she was “jealous” of the ihraam (the two sheets that Muslim men wear) versus her having to wear the scarf and clothes! IF there was an ever an ignorant comment, then this was it. She has no idea how uncomfortable and difficult the ihraam can be for men… how you get skin burns on your thighs, and how you to be always careful about covering your awrah (private parts). I would much rather be in a nice shalwar kameez, even with a head-covering (cap of course)! Again, just shows how someone WITHOUT a clue and WITHOUT proper research (which she could do just as a journalist) can totally destroy a story!

    How dare you AP for flirting with the sacredness and sanctity of this blessed Muslim worship? Would you send a Muslim Christian-make-believe reporter to cover a Vatican Catholic event, even if the Vatican forbids non-Catholics for it?

    I hope that somehow the Saudi government sues AP for fraud or if Muslims can protest about this to AP (in a civil, polite manner of course). Is there an email that we can send our protest to? Can we snowball this protest?

  7. kd

    December 20, 2007 at 1:30 PM

    “The idea of communing with God at sunset on Mount Rahma, a small rocky hill at Arafat, seemed inspiring, even exotic.”

    inspiring, great. exotic? how very orientalist…

  8. Moiez

    December 20, 2007 at 2:07 PM

    Im with Amad on this one give an email address or something

  9. Faraz Ahmed

    December 20, 2007 at 2:12 PM

    I completely disagree with her article BUT lets be careful not to call someone non-Muslim.

    She might not know how to pray or perform hajj but that doesn’t make her non-Muslim. Even if she doesn’t claim to be Muslim in the article, it doesn’t matter.

    The fact that she attended hajj, a ritual that is only for Muslims, testifies that at some level she considers herself Muslim. Until she makes an explicit statement saying otherwise, lets not harm ourselves by getting involved in such a dangerous exercise.

  10. Amad

    December 20, 2007 at 2:37 PM

    Well, Faraz, I know many fuqaha consider someone who doesn’t pray 5 times non-Muslim. Even if we assume the “easier” opinion in this matter, I wonder what the fuqaha who say that such a person IS a Muslim– what they would say about someone who has never prayed in their lives.

    Imaan is both belief and action. And if you have never done an Islamic act of worship in your life, then how are you a Muslim?

    If you or anyone can find what other ulemah have said on this matter, it would be great.

    This is what Shaykh Yasir said (distinguishing between the occasional praying person and the one who never prayed):
    “It is my opinion that one who does not pray at all (meaning that he never once lowered his head in prostration to his Lord) is not a Muslim. This does not include the ‘occasional’ musalli – his affair is with his Lord. Also, ignorance is an excuse in this regard and Allah allows into His mercy whomever He pleases”.

    More here: http://www.muslimtents.com/aminahsworld/Strict_orders.html

    *Even if we ignore everything about salah, I think the fact that she consistently distances herself from Islamic practices and has yet to mention her own Islam… I mean we’d be hard pressed to make any other conclusion that she doesn’t want to be known as a Muslim.

  11. Ruth Nasrullah

    December 20, 2007 at 2:52 PM

    Actually, Br. Amad, I don’t know if she says she’s *never* prayed, only that she doesn’t really know how to.

    I simply don’t see anything in her articles that would make me think she’s Muslim.

  12. Solomon2

    December 20, 2007 at 3:03 PM

    Many pilgrims talk of the physical arduousness of hajj as a test of faith. But, as I found, it also makes keeping your mind on faith difficult.

    At first I thought the criticism was too harsh, but even I am pissed off by this reporter. Regardless of whether she was born a Muslim or something else, the woman denies she has any faith of her own, and refrained from reporting on the spirit of those who did in favor of her own feelings. Yet in this one statement she purports to speak for everyone. Deceiver!

  13. Amad

    December 20, 2007 at 3:15 PM

    Solomon2, I am glad that you have similar feelings on this. Reading your comments, it confirms to me that this transcends just being a Muslim issue.

    As Ruth mentioned in her article, this could be said of any person being thrown into a situation where he/she is judging the rituals and spirit of worship of others, while the person himself/herself is not a believer.

  14. MR

    December 20, 2007 at 4:58 PM

    She sounds like she’s unhealthy and weighs 20 lbs. She made Hajj seem so impossible for herself. She’s got to be physically and spiritually weak.

  15. Danya

    December 20, 2007 at 5:05 PM

    “and I looked with envy at the men praying next to me with their bare arms and necks.”

    From what the men in my family tell me, they envy the women… uh, she’s not wearing a nothing but a towel….

    And it’s not hot in December… it’s actually quite cool or at worst, warm.

    She needs to stop whining…

  16. docmk27

    December 20, 2007 at 5:11 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,
    I was very shocked by how she demeans the sanctity of the hajj by trivial and irrelevant remarks…it’s a very pathetic attempt to be ‘Muslim’ and sad that it is only for the sake of a story….May Allah guide her to the Right path….
    I came across a better personal account of the Hajj by Imtiaz Tyab of the bbc….very moving.

  17. Organic Muslimah

    December 20, 2007 at 5:14 PM

    Let us focus on the content of the article without referring to the author’s faith. It doesn’t matter to me if she is a Muslim or non-Muslim. The author makes her point clear, she didn’t like her trip to hajj for many reasons–all of them being materialistic, of course!

    I’ve never performed Hajj myself, but from what she describes, it’s pretty accurate. Yes! It’s crowded, hot and people are rude–but it pays off for a devout Muslim, at the end of the day. The spiritual compensation is invaluable to a believing Muslim, regardless of how many earthly struggles they have to face to get there. The key is to believe–and obviously the undercover journalist doesn’t.

    I really like how Ruth parallels the actions of the journalist in Mecca with a Muslim in the Vatican. The journalist simply didn’t ‘get it.’ It’s important to understand, not every Muslim who attends Hajj ‘gets it.’ Accomplishing Hajj, i.e. purifying your soul, is a privilege from Allah (swt). when your Hajj is accepted and fulfilled, the signs of your accomplishment are manifested in how you feel inside, nothing you can prove physically.

    I can see why the reporter views Hajj so negatively, she was left to roam around 3 million Muslims, in the hot, with no spiritual reward at the end.

  18. Amad

    December 20, 2007 at 5:29 PM

    I can see why the reporter views Hajj so negatively, she was left to roam around 3 million Muslims, in the hot, with no spiritual reward at the end.

    That’s one quotable quote.

  19. Ahmad AlFarsi

    December 20, 2007 at 5:49 PM

    I can see why the reporter views Hajj so negatively, she was left to roam around 3 million Muslims, in the hot, with no spiritual reward at the end.

    So true subhanaAllah. If someone fasts, but is not Muslim, all they get is an empty stomach and low blood sugar! The Muslim expects reward from his Rabb. Likewise, all she could have possible gotten out of her “Hajj” is crowds, heat, and confusion… even if she was Muslim (and there is no reason for us to believe that she is Muslim), she didn’t seem to be hoping for any reward whatsoever! A Muslim knows he is pleasing his Rabb, and the Muslim is hoping for the reward of an accepted Hajj: Paradise.

    I believe Sh. Salih alFawzan said, “The good deeds of a disbeliever (one without iman) are nothing but a burden for him in this life and a means for regret in the next (when he sees that they amounted to nothing since he had no iman).” … so true…

  20. SaqibSaab

    December 20, 2007 at 11:59 PM

    And you can bet that wafer will taste like no more than a cracker to me, and if I follow Faramarzi’s lead, I’d complain about the flavor.

    Zing!

  21. Umm Zaid

    December 21, 2007 at 8:20 AM

    Salaam ‘Alaikum

    I made my comments on FB already, but one thing… since I first read it, I keep reflecting on the fact that she did make an intention (or at least one of several) that God accepts her Hajj, so far all we know, Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala is already working on her heart and mind through her journey. Maybe the results won’t be apparent today… and will happen in spite of her snark.

    Also, who told her that the Hajj was going to be without problems and difficulties? Isn’t that the whole point, to persevere and find your connection to God in spite of the problems? Hujjaj have it much easier today than at any time in history (no highway robbers, for example) but it’s still a trial. So is life, for that matter. Wait for “another season” for communion with God, and you’ll be waiting in your grave. No one is promised tomorrow.

    I found the whole thing annoying, and wondered if there wasn’t a single religious or semi-religious English speaking writer in the entire world that they couldn’t send instead. If this is how we cover religious events, I hope they send a staunch atheist to report on Midnight Mass at the Vatican on Christmas. (Of course, they won’t…)

  22. DrM

    December 22, 2007 at 12:41 AM

    I long ago gave up any hope that western media would do justice to any news/issue regarding Islam. This piece only solidifies my view.
    I read it the other day, and found so many errors I was utterly disgusted by the inaccuracies. “Advanced purification & training”?! Nonsense. By sending in a person who doesn’t even follow the first and second pillars of the deen, how can you expect them to present the fifth?

  23. Azeem

    December 22, 2007 at 10:25 AM

    I feel pity for this reporter for her ignorance regarding Islam. Let us all supplicate Allah to guide her and to learn about Islam and to follow the Islamic way of life, practice all the pillars of Islam. At the same time let us hope she makes a strong comittment to perform haj for the second time after thorough preparation for the same. Insha Allah she will be a good practising muslim.

  24. ExEx Blogger

    December 22, 2007 at 6:02 PM

    Her hajj is nothing

    Allah says in the Quran:

    Deaf Mute & Blind and They Don’t Comprehend.

  25. AnonyMouse

    December 22, 2007 at 6:33 PM

    Should someone not contact AP and express our disgust at their pathetic journalistic skills?

  26. Salafiya

    December 26, 2007 at 6:28 PM

    The link is not working. Anyhow, the greatest jihaad for a Muslim woman is Hajj. How about someone who does not appreciate it, as some of the comments have mentioned as well? I went for Hajj 2 years ago, and I had it easier than the men. I got to wear 2 layers of socks and sneakers whereas my father and brothers were barefoot. They weren’t complaining and neither was I. We were there to worship Allaah, not for our comfort. And honestly, just the sight of the Ka’aba and the serene atmosphere in Madinah was well worth ANY hardships. I hope that she, too, will have another opportunity to perform Hajj…and this time the correct way. May Allaah guide her and us all. Ameen

  27. Amad

    December 26, 2007 at 8:35 PM

    Sr Salafiya, which link?

  28. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » Tarek Fatah (and…) Does NOT Represent Me: Muslims 101 for Media

  29. Lazlo Toth

    October 1, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    This is why most of the world’s religions sensibly do not forbid the use of alcohol. If you’re getting this upset over such a trivial symbolic matter, the only healthy and humane response is to start drinking until you no longer care, and can find something better to do with your time.

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