Hajj stampede brings sadness, concern to Toronto Muslims

The Muslim community of Toronto was taking part in another Eid celebration when it got word of a deadly incident close to Islam's most holy site.

More than 700 pilgrims were killed in a stampede as they attempted to perform the hajj, the annual Islamic trek to Mecca. The incident occurred during the ritual known as "stoning the devil," in Mina, west of Mecca.

The pilgrimage is a sacred ritual that every Muslim should embark on at least once in their lives, Islamic leaders say. Unfortunately, similar incidents have happened at least seven times in the past 25 years during hajj, mostly because of the large influx of people taking part.

The news spread quickly at Exhibition Place, where Eid was being celebrated by thousands of Muslims in Toronto.

"It's a tragic event what took place today," said Abdullatif BakBak. "The time of hajj is a time of peace."

BakBak has taken the pilgrimage himself and said more needs to be done to prevent these incidents from happening.

"We would expect the Saudi government to take action. They have done [so] in the past."

The Muslim man said when he went to take part in the hajj, he did so at night when there were far less people.

Sadeq Sadeq said he never did the religious trek, but his parents have. For him, it's crucial for officials to step up to ensure rules are followed and people are kept safe throughout the journey.

"There always some kind of issue there because of people not really following the direction they are suppose to travel through," he said.

Sadeq's wife, Simeena You-den, added more security is necessary to protect lives.

"These are things will just happen with more frequency. The more people that go each year, and as our population increases, so the organization just has to be so much more," she said.

"It's very sad, especially on this holy day."

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