As Muslims from around the world travel to Makkah for the Hajj, Iran and Saudi Arabia have renewed their war of words over last year’s Mina tragedy in which several thousand pilgrims (including hundreds of Iranians) are thought to have died.
The incident led to the Saudi and Iranian authorities effectively blaming each other for the deaths and to Iran refusing to send Hajj groups to the Holy City this year.
The two nations are also at odds over several wars and crises across the Middle East, such as in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon.
Yesterday Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched a blistering attack on the Saudis, accusing them of desecrating the Hajj and being agents of America and Israel.
In response the Saudi authorities accused the Iranians of trying to politicise the pilgrimage for their own ends.
In his annual Hajj message Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “Those who have reduced the Hajj to a mere pilgrimage-tourism trip and have hidden their enmity and grudge against the faithful and the revolutionary nation of Iran under the title of the ‘politicization of the Hajj’ are puny and belittled devils, who shudder as soon as the ambitions of the Great Satan, America, are put in jeopardy.
“Saudi rulers, who have obstructed the path to Allah and the Masjid al-Haram this year and blocked the way of the fervent and faithful Iranian pilgrims to the House of the Beloved, are disgraced misguided people, who tie their survival on the throne of [their] oppressive power to defending global arrogant powers and [forming] alliances with Zionism and America and making efforts to meet their demand, and they do not shy away from any act of treason to that end.”
However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif dismissed Iranian criticism of Hajj management as baseless.
Addressing a press conference, he said: “There is no credibility in their claims and they know full well that the Kingdom offers excellent services to all pilgrims, including Iranians.”
Saudi Arabia, led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, has spared no effort in providing state-of-the-art services for the safety, comfort and security of all pilgrims, said the crown prince. The Kingdom will remain firm and steadfast in dealing with any threat that may destabilize the pilgrimage, he added.
Meanwhile, an article in the Saudi state publication Asharq Al Awsat read: “Once again, Iran is in a quest to cause a clash between Muslims, tension over Hajj and damage to the public interest through an offense carried out by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saudi Arabia.
“The statement issued by Khamenei brings nothing new; just the same Iranian demands to export revolution and transform Hajj from a spiritual, religious act to a political source of conflicts and revolutions. Iran aims to undermine the efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia to serve the pilgrims coming from all over the world.”