Salaam to take holy trip to Mecca

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Yusuf Salaam leaves today on a hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca prescribed as a religious duty for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Salaam, of course, occupies the Alabama House of Representatives District 67 seat. He is also a Muslim.

This will be Salaam’s second hajj. Salaam and his wife are making trip at the invitation of the Muslim World League, a U.N.-affiliated organization located in Washington, D.C.

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As a Muslim, Salaam will be going for all the traditional reasons Muslims make such a spiritual pilgrimage. But as one of only two Muslim elected officials in the United States, and the only Alabama legislator to be making the trip, he said he also plans to take along plenty of business cards.

According to Salaam, the hajj culminates in mass gathering of some 2 million visitors to Mecca on Mount Arafat. Think of it as the mother of all chamber of commerce breakfasts.

Salaam noted that he will be attempting to build on the contacts made by former Selma Mayor Joe Smitherman and local businessman Larry Striplin, who forged extensive ties with Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Salaam said he also plans to meet with a number of Chinese officials during the hajj in hopes of laying the groundwork for a trip to heavily Muslim regions of China in August.

Salaam said he expects to return in two weeks.