Saudis Fume Over Claim Qatar Wants to ‘Internationalize’ Muslim Holy Sites

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KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV — The crisis between Qatar and Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia deteriorated further in the last few days due to Saudi reports that Qatar is appealing to the international community for internationalized access to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy places, considered a requirement for all Muslims.

According to Saudi Arabia, Qatar has approached international institutions demanding that they ensure Saudi Arabia allows Qatari pilgrims equal access to holy sites in the kingdom during the pilgrimage.

In an interview with an international Saudi television station, Saudi Foreign Ministry Adel al-Jubeir said, “Qatar’s demand to internationalize the Hajj is an aggressive demand and a declaration of war against the kingdom.” According to Jubeir, “We reserve the right to respond to anyone who tries to turn the issue of the Hajj into an international issue.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, however, denied that any such request was ever made. “Qatar never politicized the issue of the Hajj,” Thani told Al Jazeera. “It was Saudi Arabia trying to politicize the Hajj pilgrimage amid the Gulf crisis.”

“There has been no suggestion by any Qatari official about internationalizing the issue,” he added.

Saudi media outlets reported that Saudi Arabia rejected Qatar’s alleged efforts to turn the Hajj season, which is expected to begin in a few days, into a political issue and part of the crisis between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia and various Gulf states on the other.

Jubeir said, “The history of the kingdom is clear in all regards to making it easier for pilgrims to come to Mecca.” He criticized Qatar’s alleged attempts to politicize the Hajj at the expense of Qatari pilgrims. “We want Qataris to make the Hajj exactly like all other pilgrims,” he added.

Social media users did not shy away from voicing their opinions on claims that the pilgrimage season, one of the holiest periods for Muslims, may turn into an issue of international dispute.

Saudi author and media personality Salman al-Dossary wrote, “She’s trying to exploit the pilgrimage politically. She claims that the Saudis might kill her citizens! She’s playing a dangerous game of internationalizing the Hajj. The Hajj will be completed peacefully but she will burn her hand.”

In another tweet, al-Dossary added, “Qatar is ignoring the fact that what Iran did not succeed in doing with 80,000 pilgrims, and what crazy Gaddafi wasn’t able to do, Qatar won’t be able to do with 1,600 pilgrims she wants to prevent making the pilgrimage!”

Saudi academic researcher Abdelaziz al-Twajiri wrote, “The internationalization of the Hajj is a faulty call preceded by the call of Gaddafi and the leaders of Iran. They were unsuccessful and those who demand it now won’t be successful. The holy places are in safe hands.”

Saudi journalist Firas al-Kassim chose to criticize the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, writing, “Al Jazeera is strengthening the Shi’ites who have proven that they have shed blood on the Hajj by this demand.”

Another journalist from the United Arab Emirates, Majed al-Raeesi, also claimed that Qatar has adopted a demand similar to that of the Iranians. “There is a match between the Qatar demand and the Iranian demand to internationalize the pilgrimage. This is a cheap country (Qatar).”

Kuwaiti politician Obaid al-Wasmi wrote, “The internationalization of the Hajj is without a doubt a platform to weaken the kingdom (Saudi Arabia) politically and doesn’t present a threat to Saudi Arabia alone, but a practical threat to all the Gulf states. Therefore, this is a demand that must be rejected outright.”

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