Syrian haj pilgrims raise rebel flag, mufti calls for unity

MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia - Syrian pilgrims raised rebel flags as the haj reached its climax near Mecca on Thursday, despite a call from Saudi Arabia's top cleric for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to be free from nationalist sentiment and Muslim infighting.
This year's haj takes place against a backdrop of divisions among Muslims, as Shi'ite Iran and Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria's civil war.
"My parents asked me to pray for God to bring peace, stability and safety to Syria," said Musa al-Ali, 38, a Syrian man living in Riyadh. "I hope death is brought to a halt in Syria."