Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz has invited the leader of the Tunisian Islamic Movement, Rashid Al-Ghannouchi, to perform the Hajj this year, Jordan’s Al-Sabeel reported on Friday.
In 2007/8, the Saudi embassy in Britain, where Ghannouchi was in exile, refused to grant a visa for him to go to the kingdom for pilgrimage. Sources close to Ghannouchi said that he was banned from entering Saudi Arabia during the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the now-ousted Tunisian president, who fled to Riyadh during his country’s national uprising.
Since the rise of the Islamists to power in Arab Spring countries, Ghannouchi has been reassuring the Gulf States, mainly Saudi Arabia, which generally took a dim view of the political situation. Qatar was the notable exception to this. The interior ministry in Riyadh banned the Muslim Brotherhood in early 2014 as part of its self-imposed obligation to support the 2013 military coup against Egypt’s first freely-elected President, Mohamed Morsi.
Rashid Al-Ghannouchi has been working to defrost relations between his Ennahda movement and top government officials in Saudi Arabia. His invitation to perform Hajj would appear to signal some degree of success.