The king “serves in his best capacity Muslims from all over the world coming to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News on Thursday.
“But the case of Qatari pilgrims was totally different. Doha wanted to politicize Hajj, but Riyadh offered all assistance to them to come to the Kingdom for the annual pilgrimage by opening the border and ordering Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft to be dispatched to Doha to bring Qatari pilgrims to Jeddah,” he added.
“Also, Qatari nationals who wish to enter the Kingdom for Hajj will be allowed to come without electronic permits, which were previously required.”
Saying the Kingdom does not politicize Hajj, Al-Shehri said: “This is Saudi Arabia, generous and large-hearted. All the time we’re interested in helping people and making everything easy for those coming to perform Hajj and Umrah.”
Salman Al-Ansari, president of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told Arab News that the initiative “shows how much King Salman cares about the Qatari people.”
Describing the move as “generous,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Al-Gargash tweeted: “Saudi Arabia proved how large-hearted it is; now Qatar’s politics and politicization of the pilgrimage must end after the generous initiative of King Salman. There are things that are above politics.”
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa described the move as “unprecedented,” tweeting that it “has never been done before for any Islamic country, even under normal circumstances.”
King Salman’s patronage of pilgrims is a “historic responsibility that the Kingdom has undertaken for all countries, and no one can deny that,” Al-Khalifa said.
The Muslim World League (MWL) also applauded the king’s order, saying Saudi Arabia is governed by Islamic law derived from the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, and its policies help unite the Ummah.
The plan to reopen the border and dispatch aircraft to Doha was submitted to the king by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who earlier met visiting Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassem Al-Thani at the Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. The meeting was the first with a Qatari leader since the start of the rift in June.
The king also ordered that all Qatari pilgrims be transported to King Fahd, Dammam and Al-Ahsa airports as his guests.
All expenses are to be paid under the program of the Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah.
Salwa, Qatar’s only border crossing, was closed in June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt cut ties with Doha, accusing it of backing terrorist groups and developing ties with Iran, which is fomenting sectarian strife in the region.