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Islam in Perspective

Taking selfies during Haj

Saad Al-Dosari_New Media
When it comes to Haj, many aspects of the event comes to mind like the safety and security of the pilgrims, potential health hazards that may arise with millions of people from all corners of the globe coming together in a tiny piece of land, and the transportation and housing challenges that come with this huge number of people.
However, it rarely comes to mind the challenges behind making sure those pilgrims are kept connected all the time to their loved ones back home through phone connections and social media.
With the passage of time, demand for higher bandwidth and faster network has become a necessity.
On the journey of their lives, pilgrims usually document every step of the way with their smartphones; it is no longer the issue of phone line availability, it is now about selfies to share, tweets to send, and videos to upload.
The whole experience of Haj has changed in recent years, stirring many controversial discussions on how the culture of selfies and snaps is affecting the spiritual experience of the fifth pillar of Islam.
A couple of years ago, “Haj Selfies” became a hot topic for debate. People are still divided on this issue. Is it really polite for people to stop every now and then along the crowded paths in Makkah or Madinah to take selfies, possibly disturbing the flow of crowd in these locations?
Last year was the year of Snapchat. Before the event started, people were campaigning online asking Snapchat management to make a Live Story dedicated to Haj, which Snapchat eventually did.
And what can be said about the Selfies can be said about the Snaps, people moving around with phones held high snapping photos and videos of their journey, and eagerly expecting their snaps to be uploaded in no time.
That is why for the local telecom companies, it is one of the most critical times of the year. There are million of calls to pass through, and there is an unprecedented load on bandwidth, huge bandwidth, to pass tremendous data packages carrying pilgrims photos and videos to the Internet.
Putting all the technical challenges aside, what is remaining is purely consumer behavior. There is no way to strip people of their right to use social media or share their experiences online, however, there is a responsibility on all of them to exercise this right wisely.
Stopping in the middle of crowds, disturbing others while taking selfies, or talking loudly when making videos are all behaviors that should be adjusted to the spiritual aspect of the event.

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