After much dithering, Iran has finally decided to deprive its citizens from performing the Hajj pilgrimage and continues to politicise the religious ritual. The Iranian Minister of Culture Ali Jannati announced that “After two rounds of negotiations during which a conclusion was not reached because of Saudi restrictions, Iranian pilgrims will not be able to perform Hajj, unfortunately.”
In response to the Iranian stance, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir attributed Tehran’s refusal to allow its citizens to perform Hajj this year to its efforts “to organise demonstrations and create chaos”. During a joint press conference with his British counterpart Philip Hammond in Jeddah yesterday, Al-Jubeir said that “Iran has demanded the right to organise demonstrations and to have other privileges that depart from the normal regulation” and added that “these steps would “create chaos during the Hajj period”. He stressed that “this is unacceptable”.
Al-Jubeir emphasised the fact that Saudi Arabia takes its responsibilities regarding Hajj seriously and does not prevent anyone from coming to perform it. He added that “consultations with more than seventy countries take place every year and they conclude with the signing of a memorandum of understanding to ensure the security and safety of pilgrims”.
On their part, scholars from Al-Azhar have rejected calls by some countries and groups to demonstrate during the Hajj season and stressed that “inciting dissention and chaos and raising political banners during the pilgrimage defeats the purpose of the fifth pillar of Islam, opens the doors to evil and sedition and is forbidden Islamically”. The Grand Mufti of Egypt Dr Shawki Ibrahim Allam said in an earlier fatwa that “demonstrations during Hajj are forbidden in Islam, and this is a heresy because it causes disunity, conflict and controversy”.
In addition to this, a member of the Egyptian Council of Senior Scholars Dr Mahmoud Muhanna told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Demonstrating during Hajj is a political exploitation of the Hajj” and is prohibited. He added that pilgrims were supposed to devote themselves to performing the rites of Hajj, and that the only other activity that was permissible during the Hajj period was trade.