Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday accused Qatar of trying to politicize the Hajj pilgrimage amid a Gulf crisis.
“Saudi Arabia does not accept the politicization of the Hajj rites,” he told a press conference following a meeting in the Bahraini capital, Manama, with foreign ministers of four Arab countries boycotting Qatar. “We reject attempts by Qatar to politicize the issue and consider it disrespect to the Hajj and pilgrims.”
“We welcome pilgrims from Qatar as well as every Muslim from everywhere in the world,” he added.
Qatari’s may be welcomed but Saudi authorities reported last week they would allow access to Qatari pilgrims via just two airports, regardless from where their trip originates. This is a hardship for Qatari’s travelling from abroad, who must now return to Qatar to enter by way of one of the designated airports.
On Saturday, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee informed the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion of the obstacles and difficulties facing Qatari pilgrims.
To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said Qatari pilgrims would be allowed to come to Hajj aboard any carrier except Qatar Airways.
The move is designed, “to set obstacles for the pilgrims from Qatar to Mecca”, according to Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf).
Director of Hajj and Umrah Department at Awqaf, Ali Sultan Al Misifry, said the number of registrations by national and resident pilgrims had reached 20,000.
“Many of these registrants have joined Hajj campaign to begin their holy ritual. However, when the Saudi ministry’s refusal to communicate and to provide safety guarantees led to the apprehension of the pilgrims,” Misifry added, according to Qatari media.
Last month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, on accusations Doha supports terrorism.
The Saudi-led bloc imposed a land, sea and air blockade and presented a list of demands, including the closure of the Al Jazeera television network, for a resumption of relations.
Qatar denies the accusations and contends the blockade violates international law.