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For Mohamed-Ali Bouharb, the soul-searching journey of hajj he plans to embark on this year will be exceptional, since the Muslim soldier will be traveling all the way to the holy sites on a special trip provided by the army of the secular European country.

"The army is always in advance of society," a jubilant Captain Bouharb told the Globe & Mail on Tuesday, September 15.

For this year's hajj, Muslims in the French army who will go on the journey to Saudi Arabia will not have to travel on private commercial flights with ordinary civilians.

In a break from tradition, the Defense Ministry will provide its Muslim soldiers a plane to fly them and organize their stay.

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