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Saudi-Iran Hajj spat intensifies

September 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) denounced Iranian accusations today that have sharply attacked Saudi Arabia over the annual Islamic pilgrimage, the Hajj.

The GCC accused Tehran of seeking to “politicise” the Hajj, whilst simultaneously praising Saudi efforts to accommodate Muslim pilgrims.

In a statement, GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani described accusations by the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei’s as “null and disgraceful”. He added that the GCC states consider the Iranian accusations to be “incitement and a desperate attempt to politicise the greatest Islamic ritual.”

“The Muslim world is well aware of the tremendous efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia to organise and facilitate the pilgrimage and host the pilgrims and ensure their safety,” Al-Zayani said in praise of the Saudi authorities.

The diplomatic spat over Islam’s holiest rite began last Monday when Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef accused Iran of preventing Iranian pilgrims from performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage in order to “politicise” the Hajj.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, fired back by accusing Riyadh of stoking “sedition and wars” in Syria and Yemen. He also denounced the Saudi monarchy as being “blasphemous”, attracting controversy as accusations of blasphemy are commonly linked to apostasy.

Khamenei also accused Saudi authorities of “murdering” Iranian pilgrims during last year’s Hajj stampede, branding the Saudis as “puny Satans who trembled in fear of…the Great Satan [the United States]”.

Iran’s outburst was responded to in similarly strong language in an explosive statement issued yesterday by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh. Al-Sheikh declared that the Iranians were “the enemies of Islam and the creed [of Islamic orthodoxy]”, and that they were “descendants of Zoroastrians”.

In April, Riyadh and Tehran failed to agree terms governing the Hajj after Iran demanded that Iranian pilgrims be allowed to perform certain practices deemed unacceptable to Saudi Arabia, who are from the majority Sunni sect of Islam.