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. 


GCC summit calls for greater economic and defense unity among Gulf countries 

Updated 43 min 58 sec ago

GCC summit calls for greater economic and defense unity among Gulf countries 

  • Heads of the delegations land in Riyadh before the 40th Supreme Council meeting gets under way
  • King Salman tells the summit that the GCC has overcome many crises in its history

RIYADH: The GCC summit called for greater regional economic and defense integration as the meeting chaired by King Salman came to a close in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The final statement, read by GCC General Secretary Abdullatif Al-Zayani, called for finalizing legislation for financial and monetary unity by 2025, according to the meeting's final communique.

The statement also called for boosting military and security cooperation to maintain regional security.

“The leaders of the GCC countries have affirmed today their keenness to preserve the strength, cohesion and strength of the GCC …  as an oasis of stability, security, economic prosperity and social peace,” the statement said.

It referred to attacks in the last year against Saudi Arabia, including coordinated missile and drone strikes against major oil facilities blamed on Iran.

The statement said the GCC states “stand unified against the attacks” and that this reflected the Gulf defense agreement that says “aggression against a member state would be considered as aggression against all the GCC states.”

“The highest goal of the Cooperation Council is to achieve coordination, integration and interdependence among the member states in all fields in order to reach their unity,” it said.

The 40th Supreme Council meeting was chaired by King Salman, who met the heads of each delegation as they landed.

They included the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Oman's Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

In his opening remarks, King Salman said the GCC had managed to overcome many crises that the region has faced.

He said the current set of challenges “call for concerted efforts to confront them.”

“The Iranian regime continues its hostile actions to undermine security and stability and support terrorism,” the king said.

He said the GCC must “work with the international community to stop the interference of this regime, deal seriously with its nuclear program and the program to develop ballistic missiles.”

There was no mention in the final communique of the dispute between Qatar and other Gulf and Arab countries. 

But Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah was the most senior Qatari official to attend the GCC summit since 2017 - the same year Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched a boycott of Qatar over its links to extremist groups among other things.

Speaking after the meeting, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “The four countries (boycotting Qatar) continue to support the efforts of the Kuwaiti Emir and value their success.”

Al-Zayani, who is stepping down as secretary general, said all the GCC leaders had praised the efforts of the Emir of Kuwait in preserving the unity of the cooperation. 

At a preparatory meeting on Monday, Gulf foreign ministers approved the nomination of former Kuwaiti Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf as the next secretary-general of the GCC.

His term will begin in April 2020 following the end of Al-Zayani’s term.