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"Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering"

Muslim pilgrims gather to pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, near the holy city Mecca during the Hajj in 2002.
AP Photo

"Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering"

Working Paper

April 2008

Authors: Asim Khwaja, Faculty Affiliate, Middle East Initiative, David Clingingsmith, Michael Kremer

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Dubai Initiative

 

ABSTRACT

We estimate the impact on pilgrims of performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Our method compares successful and unsuccessful applicants in a lottery used by Pakistan to allocate Hajj visas. Pilgrim accounts stress that the Hajj leads to a feeling of unity with fellow Muslims, but outsiders have sometimes feared that this could be accompanied by antipathy toward non-Muslims. We find that participation in the Hajj increases observance of global Islamic practices such as prayer and fasting while decreasing participation in localized practices and beliefs such as the use of amulets and dowry. It increases belief in equality and harmony among ethnic groups and Islamic sects and leads to more favorable attitudes toward women, including greater acceptance of female education and employment. Increased unity within the Islamic world is not accompanied by antipathy toward non-Muslims. Instead, Hajjis show increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions. The evidence suggests that these changes are more a result of exposure to and interaction with Hajjis from around the world, rather than religious instruction or a changed social role of pilgrims upon return.

 

This working paper, co-authored by DI Faculty Affiliate Asim Khwaja, argues that the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca increases observance of global Islamic practices while decreasing participation in localized practices and beliefs. The authors' evidence suggests that these changes are more a result of exposure to and interaction with Hajjis from around the world, rather than religious instruction or a changed social role of pilgrims upon return.

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For more information about this publication please contact the The Dubai Initiative at 617-496-3694.

For Academic Citation:

Khwaja, Asim. "Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering." Working Paper, Dubai Initiative, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, April 2008.

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