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Saudi Arabia: non-Muslim Indian delegation visits Madinah

January 9, 2024 at 4:55 pm

Muslim pilgrims during Hajj inside the second most holiest shrine in Muslim religion, at the Prophet’s Mohammad Mosque in Medina [Getty]

India’s Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs, Smriti Zubin Irani, has led the country’s first non-Muslim delegation to Islam’s second most holy city, Madinah, in Saudi Arabia. Irani, who is a practising Hindu, was accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan and other senior officials from India’s ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to a press release, the delegation met with Indian volunteers who provide services to Indian Hajj pilgrims, and also met with Umrah pilgrims from India.

The delegation visited the perimeter of the Prophet’s Mosque in the Markazia area of the city, which has long been off limits to non-Muslims. This was followed by a visit to Mount Uhud, the site of a significant battle in early Islamic history, and a visit to the Quba Mosque, considered to be “the first in Islam”.

Speaking of the “historic” visit, Irani said on X: “The significance of the visit to these sites courtesy Saudi officials, intertwined with early Islamic history, underscores the depth of our cultural and spiritual engagement.”

An official statement said that, “The Government of India is deeply committed to assist in providing facilities and services to Indian Muslims who undertake the Haj pilgrimage, thereby providing them with a comfortable and fulfilling experience.”

Two days before this visit, a bilateral agreement was signed between India and Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, designating New Delhi a quota of 175,025 pilgrims for the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year.

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