This article in IHT provides some encouraging news about the open debates taking place in Mecca during Hajj:
The two-hour presentation "Mecca: The Cultural Capital of Islam" was
dry, but things got rolling in the question and answer session in a way
quintessentially Meccan. One by one, audience members – a surprising
number of them women – came to the microphone with questions that few
others would dare ask publicly.
"Why do we look only into the past and not to the future," another woman demanded.
The session soon grew into a raucous series of debates about the
critical issues facing Muslims – disunity, extremism, leadership. And
soon the meeting’s organizer, Abubaker Bagader, a sociology professor
at King Abdul Aziz University in Jidda, had to step in to admonish them
– not for being too argumentative but for veering from the subject.
Rare in most of the Muslim world, the willingness to debate and raise
seemingly taboo questions is standard here in the birthplace of Islam
and the site of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that is taking place
this week. The hajj attracts about 1.5 million Muslims from all corners
of the world for five days of meditation, prayer and, often, vigorous
In workshops and meeting rooms, at schools and mosques in the city, the
freewheeling discussion of theology, history and politics lives on.