Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Monday praised Saudi Arabia’s role in organizing the annual Hajj pilgrimage and rejected criticism of the Kingdom regarding the deadly stampede that occurred during this year’s Hajj last month.
Speaking during celebrations marking the anniversary of the October 1973 (Yom Kippur) War, Sisi said: “Egyptians, Arabs, and Muslims worldwide have full confidence in the genuine service offered by Saudi Arabia to [Hajj] pilgrims . . . and to visitors to [Mecca] throughout the year.”
“We all have absolute faith in the procedures carried out by Saudi Arabia to organize the Hajj . . . if anyone thinks that any country other than Saudi Arabia could accomplish this task then they are not being impartial,” the president said.
According to official figures 769 people were killed and nearly 900 injured during the tragedy, which occurred when a stampede broke out near Mina, just outside Mecca, during the pilgrimage last month.
Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has ordered an official investigation into the tragedy and a review of Hajj procedures to ensure improved organization and management of the annual pilgrimage.
Iran, which has the highest number of recorded fatalities from the incident, has been especially vocal in its criticism of Saudi Arabia and has demanded the Kingdom “apologize” to Muslims worldwide for the tragedy.
However, several world leaders and figures from the Muslim world have come out in defense of the Kingdom’s role in organizing the annual pilgrimage, which is the world’s largest gathering, drawing in over 2.5 million people each year.
They have also criticized Iran for “politicizing” the tragedy in light of current tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
On Sunday, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the highest religious authority in the country, told Asharq Al-Awsat he believed Saudi Arabia was “not at fault” for the tragedy and praised the role played by the Kingdom in organizing the pilgrimage.
“We must wait for the results [of the investigation] and not engage in spreading rumors or making premature judgments before the final word from the investigation is made public,” Allam said.
“If there were mistakes made—and if that is the case we hope they will not be repeated—then that still does not give us the right to disregard the excellent efforts made by the Kingdom in organizing the pilgrimage throughout the years and this year,” he added.
“Human error is always possible—that is assuming it even occurred in this case . . . and the only thing worth mentioning here is that we hope it doesn’t occur again. Moreover, any errors that occurred should not give anyone the right to attack Saudi Arabia’s leadership or people for political aims or make light of the efforts they make each year to facilitate the visit of [pilgrims to the Hajj].”
Waleed Abdul Rahman contributed additional reporting from Cairo.