Faizel Patel, 2016-05
Iran says its citizens would not participate in this year’s annual hajj to Makkah in Saudi Arabia as Tehran and Riyadh trade blame over a failure to agree on organisational details.
The pronouncement is the latest sign of discord between the two rival nations and comes after last year’s hajj events were marred by the death of more than 2,000 pilgrims, 464 of them Iranian, in a stampede at Mina on the outskirts of the holy city of Makkah
Al Jazeera is reporting a delegation from Tehran held four days of talks in Saudi Arabia last month, aimed at reaching a deal for Iranians to go for Hajj, which will take place in September.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Ali Jannati, Tehran’s Islamic Guidance and Culture Minister Ali Jannati whose ministry oversees arrangements for Iranian pilgrims as blaming Riyadh for the impasse.
“The arrangements have not been put together and it’s now too late.”
According to a statement carried by state-linked news site Sabq, the Saudi Hajj ministry says Tehran’s delegation had refused to sign an agreement laying out arrangements for this year’s pilgrimage.
The statement says Iran’s demands include the granting of visas inside Iran and transport arrangements that would evenly split the pilgrims between Saudi and Iranian airlines.
“Iran is the only country that refused to sign the agreement on the Hajj. It insisted on a number of unacceptable demands,” Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Bintin told Saudi state TV channel Ekhbariya.
Saudi Arabia and Iran severed ties after protesters in Iran attacked Saudi diplomatic missions there following the execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia.
Iran wants Saudi Arabia to issue visas through the Swiss embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia’s Hajj ministry, however, said that it informed the Iranians that they could get their visas through the online system used for all pilgrims coming from abroad.
A culture ministry official said Iran was “very concerned over the security of Iranians during the holy ceremony” and that talks with Saudi authorities were continuing.
Cii Radio | Sabera Sheik Essop | 23 May 2016 | 16 Sha’ban 1437
JEDDAH: The Saudi Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has lambasted Iran for what he described as attempts to seek political gain from the Haj over the past 30 years.
In a phone interview with a local daily published on Friday, Al-Asheikh described the Iranian government as the “enemy of the House of God and the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him.”
Tehran created “a lie” that the Kingdom had prevented Iranian pilgrims from performing Haj. The agreement that the Iranian government’s Haj delegation had to sign last week was mandatory for all nations, he was quoted as saying.
He said Iran has been responsible for several attempts over the years to cause trouble at the Grand Mosque. “How many errors and abuses have been committed?” He said that the demonstrations sponsored by Iran in Makkah in 1987 had threatened the lives of innocent people, resulting in a ban on the country.
Al-Asheikh said Tehran was trying to “defame” the Kingdom in an attempt to hide the harm it had inflicted on its own people, who were now unable to perform Haj. Saudi Arabia was known for carrying out its duties toward pilgrims at the Two Holy Mosques, he said.
Meanwhile, a member of the Iranian opposition, Aref Bawa Jani, head of the Sirbitz Kurdistan Party, condemned the Tehran government for what he described as attempts to use religious occasions to incite tension.
He said it had used this method in 1987 when it sent a special group to Makkah to create problems during the Haj. It was part of the country’s attempts to cause divisions among countries to further its expansionist goals, he was quoted as saying.
He said the Iranian government’s domestic and foreign policies are aimed at creating problems between Shiites and Sunnis. It was also trying to make Iranians believe that visits to religious places in Iraq, particularly Najaf and Karbala, can replace the Haj in Saudi Arabia.
Iran came under further attack by Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah bin Hameed at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during his Friday sermon, who said that Muslims must be wary of those trying to “wreak havoc” under the guise of the pilgrimage.
“When Muslims travel to this country as pilgrims they represent their unity and forget their differences. They recognize that the holy lands are not fields to address their differences and settle scores,” he said.
In comments carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, he accused “aggressors” of trying to exploit the pilgrimage to divert attention “from the suffering” in their own country.
“They want to take advantage of the worship season and the gathering of Muslims and the holy sites for political gain, to wreak havoc and cause chaos, and that leads to divisions and sowing of discord,” said the imam, who is also an adviser to the Saudi Royal Court.
On May 12, Iran said its nationals would miss the annual Haj in September this year and accused Saudi Arabia of “sabotage.” Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after demonstrators burned its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a Shiite terrorist.
In the first dialogue since ties were severed, a delegation from Tehran held four days of talks in Saudi Arabia last month aimed at reaching a deal for Iranians to join the pilgrimage. But talks became deadlocked.
Among the points of contention, the Iranians demanded to be able to hold their own rituals, including protests chanting “Death to America, death to Israel,” according to a statement from the Saudi Haj and Umrah Ministry carried by a local newspaper.
“Chanting slogans and gathering and rallying are not religious and not what God or the Prophet ordered,” Hameed said. “And so it is the Kingdom’s policy not to allow anyone or any entity to tamper with the security of the holy sites or the security of the pilgrims,” he said.
Source : Arab News