Partnering with the State Department to Ensure Protection of American Muslims

September 19, 2014

This week, our National Policy Analyst Hoda Elshishtawy attended a meeting at the State Department regarding the protection of American Muslims traveling to Saudi Arabia for hajj.

The meeting consisted of various national American Muslim advocacy organizations, the State Department’s Consular Affairs, and desk officers from the Bureau of Near East Affairs.

The impetus for the meeting was to prevent any attack on American Muslims while performing the hajj. Last year, a group of American Muslims from Michigan were harassed and attacked by a group of Australians.

Members from the State Department urged that American Muslims enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to ensure their travel information is with the appropriate desk at the State Department in the event of an emergency. Additionally, they urged pilgrims to review the Hajj Fact Sheet, distributed annually before Hajj on what pilgrims should expect.

The State Department was open to hearing our recommendations to ensure the safety of American Muslims. A few of the recommendations included:

1) Getting a commitment from the US State Department that they will continue to engage with the Saudis on the protection of American Muslims on their soil just as they would expect Saudis to be safe while on American soil.

2) Extra support at the US Embassy and Consulate in Riyadh and Jeddah should any issues arise.

3) Reminding the Saudi government of their international obligations to ensure the protection and safety of pilgrims and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency.

We hope travelers remain aware and urge all hajj pilgrims to take a look at the Hajj Fact Sheet and consider signing up for the STEP program to cover all bases.



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