Religion and Politics: Iranis to miss Hajj Pilgrimage this year
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2016-06-02 09:42:19

Religion and Politics: Iranis to miss Hajj Pilgrimage this year

 

Iran has barred its pilgrims from traveling to Mecca to take part in the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage after accusing Saudi Arabia of failing to guarantee the safety of its citizens. Tensions between the two Middle East rivals have been particularly strained recently after Riyadh broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran when its embassy was stormed following the execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials refused to provide Iranian pilgrims with consular support or guarantee the security of pilgrims, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in an interview with the Channel 3 television program in Iran. Hajj is a basic pillar of Islam, and the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina are revered by Muslims all over the world. This gives Saudi Arabia a central role as the guardian of these holy cities. Not only does Hajj revenue contribute significantly to Saudi Arabia’s economy, but more importantly the sanctity and importance of the holy sites gives Saudi Arabia a great deal of importance and even tremendous diplomatic leverage in dealing with other Muslim countries. This prime role of the country in turn gives it a moral responsibility to ensure that it provides the best arrangement possible to pilgrims from other Muslims countries. In light of this, the Iranian announcement of not sending pilgrims for Hajj must be seen as cause for concern by the kingdom. It is true that the two countries have serious issues that they need to tackle, but the annual holy pilgrimage is something that should transcend all those issues. In all fairness, however, Saudi authorities did agree to the issuance of visa for Iranian pilgrims that could be obtained through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, and Iran according to Saudi authorities did not sign the memorandum of understanding with them along with demanding concessions that would in a way allow Iranian pilgrims to hold demonstrations in Saudi Arabia. The Iranians on their part maintain that Saudi Arabia failed to address the security concerns that Iran had with respect to its pilgrims, especially in light of the stampede that occurred during last Hajj, which led to death of 700 pilgrims.

The Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry is basically an ideological battle in which two countries are vying to be the centre of Islamic power. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with its conservative Wahhabi moorings feels threatened by the revolutionary character of Shia Islam. This ideological rivalry in addition to manifesting itself in direct diplomatic clashes has also lead to proxy wars and projects of ideological promotion. Both countries back different groups in different Muslim countries. This is starkly evident in Syria as the Iranian government is backing the Alawite government of President Bashar al-Assad while Saudi Arabia along with western powers is supporting the rebel groups. The projects of ideological promotion are much more subtle as both countries fund institutions in other Muslim countries that disseminate and promote the sectarian version of Islam that each country espouses. This has led to sectarian cleavages in Muslim countries, which in turn has caused sectarian intolerance and violence. While it is true that the rivalry between the two countries shows no signs of dying out, nevertheless it must be stressed that the rivalry is having adverse effects on the region as whole. And at the most fundamental level, the rivalry should at least not be used to deprive any Muslim of any sect, of any ethnicity, of any ideology and of any country from the privilege of performing the annual pilgrimage — a holy duty prescribed for all Muslims who in physical and financial aspects can afford to make the pilgrimage. This is one point on which the two states should not let politics affect religion.

pk.shafaqna.com

 

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Tags:   Saudia ، Iran ، Hajj ، Tehran ،
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