As the holy month of Ramadan approaches its end on July 17, Muslims the world over are observing the prescribed rituals. The rituals perhaps take on a special significance for those observing Ramadan in Mecca—the holy site where every adult Muslim is meant to make a pilgrimage at least once.
Access to Mecca and to Al-Masjid al-Haram—Islam’s most sacred mosque, built around the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam—is limited to Muslims, and peeks inside the site are only possible through pictures or descriptions from those who have been there.
This year, however, things are slightly different: A new, live window into Mecca has been provided by Snapchat. The mobile app is sharing images and videos from pilgrims and devotees through the channel mecca_live.
The reactions from Muslims and from Twitter users worldwide have largely been enthusiastic. More than 1 million tweets have been shared with the hashtag #mecca_live, according to Topsy, a site that analyzes social media traffic:
Some people commenting have suggested that the prayers are an example of unity amongst devotees that cuts across socioeconomic classes and nationalities:
Others, Muslim and otherwise, openly thanked Snapchat for exposing the world to a side of Islam that is often overshadowed by extremisms:
Several non Muslims were so impressed by the images coming out of Mecca that they said it made them want to convert—a sentiment that was embraced by Muslims, but caused skepticism, too:
This is not the first time Snapchat is at the center of conversations amongst, or about, Muslims. Earlier this month, the platform was criticized for its handling of a West Bank Live feed, which critics accused of underplaying the Israeli occupation because it didn’t show Israeli soldiers in the area.