MADINAH: The head of the Iranian Haj delegation, Masood Mujarredi, has said that his delegation has obeyed all Saudi rules and regulations and striven to win the Kingdom’s appreciation.
“There may be differences between the two countries, but the differences do not stand in the way of organizing the Haj. We cooperate for the common benefit of all Muslims. We commend and trust the Saudi authorities’ efficient organization of the pilgrimage,” Mujarredi told Al-Madinah newspaper in an interview published on Monday.
Dismissing reports by international news agencies that some Iranian officials had called on Iranian pilgrims to hold demonstrations during the Haj as false, Mujarredi said, “If such reports were published in the Iranian media I would readily reply in my capacity as the representative of the Iranian government and the head of the Haj delegation. But I affirm that none of our newspapers have carried such reports. I also assert that the report is untrue. Iranian pilgrims are committed to following instructions issued by the Saudi authorities.”
He also denied that the behavior of Iranian pilgrims at the Al-Baqi cemetery is contrary to rules laid by the Saudi authorities. “The leaders of our Haj groups prohibit pilgrims from entering the cemetery with placards or exhibiting other sentimental displays. We also tell them not to be in a state of mourning when they visit the cemetery. We remind them of the Saudi regulations regarding behavior in cemeteries,” he said.
He affirmed that Iranian pilgrims do not have ulterior motives in moving around in groups. “They move about in systematic groups as part of their well-organized travel plan. They go everywhere in groups because that is their practice from the time they leave their home for the Kingdom. This is only a reflection of their organized behavior. There is no other motive. The Iranians, unlike people from other countries, are systematic in everything they do,” he added.
He also said that Iranian pilgrims are instructed, while in Madinah, to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque in congregation and not to pray at other mosques unless they have a genuine reason that prevents them from reaching the mosque, such as crowding or traffic. “However, there can be exceptions in a few cases as all pilgrims cannot be expected to be educated and refined, as is the case with pilgrims from other countries,” he added.
Regarding some controversial placards that have been carried by Iranian pilgrims in the past and the slogans they used to shout, Mujarredi said this has been stopped for the past three years.
“You cannot see anything of that sort now. We respect Saudi regulations. Show me at least one such slogan or placard with any of our pilgrims and I will take action straightaway. The placards carried by our pilgrims are just for identification purposes and indicate the names of their groups, their logos and the names of their group leaders,” he said.
The Iranian official also justified pilgrims carrying books with them. “I would like to say that the books used by our pilgrims contain only supplications approved by the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Haj,” he added.