Saudi Cabinet warns Hajj pilgrims not to mix politics with religion

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers, chaired by King Salman, urged pilgrims to be considerate of the privacy and spirituality of the holy places and not to engage in political acts. (SPA)
Updated 10 July 2019

Saudi Cabinet warns Hajj pilgrims not to mix politics with religion

  • Ayatollah Khamenei condemned for encouraging political protests in Islam’s holiest sites
  • King Salman welcomes pilgrims who began their journey to the Kingdom to perform the 5th pillar of Islam

RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia warned pilgrims on Tuesday not to mix politics with religion while performing Hajj.

During a meeting of the Saudi Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, pilgrims were urged to be considerate of the privacy and spirituality of the holy places and not to engage in political acts.

The warning follows a veiled threat by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of disruption and possible political demonstrations by Iranian pilgrims at this year’s Hajj, and criticism of Saudi organization of the pilgrimage.

“Among major mistakes is that they say, ‘Do not politicize Hajj’,” Khamenei said. “Creating unity is a political matter. Supporting and defending the oppressed in the world of Islam, like the Palestinian and Yemeni nations, is a political matter, based on Islamic teachings and obligations.

“Hajj is a political act and this political act is … a religious obligation,” the ayatollah said.

The Iranian leader also suggested that Saudi security measures at the annual pilgrimage were too tough. “The Saudi government bears major responsibilities,” he said. “Among their responsibilities is protecting the safety and security of pilgrims, but they should not spread a security atmosphere.

“While the pilgrims are in Makkah and Madinah, they should treat the pilgrims properly, respectfully, and with honor, because they are the guests of God.”

The ayatollah’s remarks were also condemned by the exiled Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri. “Khamenei has ended the 10-year truce on Hajj, and called for demonstrations during the next pilgrimage,” Taheri said.

“The stage is set for riots by pilgrims sent by Tehran to Saudi Arabia to incite violence during Hajj.

“Saudi Arabia may regret having increased Iran’s Hajj quota by almost 10,000. This year some 90,000 Iranian pilgrims may turn the Islamic ritual into an anti-American demonstration that could lead to clashes among pilgrims, and with Saudi security.”

The Saudi Minister of Media, Turki Al-Shabanah, called on worshippers to refrain from taking part in any political activities — such as the raising of slogans — that might disturb the pilgrimage. He said the Kingdom would not accept such behavior, and would take all necessary action to prevent misconduct.

Chairing the ministerial meeting in Jeddah, King Salman welcomed pilgrims and directed all Hajj organizing bodies to continue providing security, stability and tranquility for the visitors.

Addressing the ministerial meeting, held at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, King Salman welcomed pilgrims on their journey to perform the fifth pillar of Islam and directed all bodies involved in organizing Hajj to continue in providing security, stability, and tranquility for pilgrims and improve the services provided to them at land, sea and air entry points to the country.

The Cabinet applauded the continued development of pilgrim services, noting the achievement of the Makkah Road initiative to speed up pre-travel administration and baggage issues.

 

Cabinet meeting

In other business, ministers commended a decision reached during the recent OPEC and OPEC + meetings to extend the agreement to reduce production until the end of the first quarter of 2020, which would contribute to the stability of oil markets. The move would establish a framework of sustainable cooperation which would work to the benefit of producers, consumers, and the global economy, the Cabinet agreed.

Ministers also welcomed a power-sharing agreement reached between military rulers and opposition leaders in Sudan, which they hoped would pave the way to a new era of security, stability and prosperity for the Sudanese people.

The meeting went on to approve an air services agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Seychelles and gave the go-ahead for talks on a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi General Auditing Bureau and the National Auditing Bureau of Sudan for cooperation in the field of professional accounting and auditing.

The Cabinet also decided to form a board of directors for the sustainable agricultural rural development program under the chairmanship of the Saudi environment, water and agriculture minister, with representation from several government sectors and the Cooperative Societies Council.

An e-commerce system was also approved by the Cabinet. 


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”