Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, has criticized those who believe the annual Hajj pilgrimage is not a political move.
The Leader made the comment while addressing a host of local officials in charge of the Hajj pilgrimage on Wednesday.
“The creation of unity is a political move. Defending and supporting the Palestinian nation and the oppressed in the Muslim world like in Yemen is a political move. Defending the oppressed fully conforms to Islamic teachings and is a [religious] duty. Disavowal of pagans is a duty, too. All of these are stipulated in religion,” said Ayatollah Khamenei.
He then drew a comparison between “religious” political moves and “non-religious, diabolical” ones.
The Leader said an example of non-religious political moves is when some say pilgrims should not express their protest at the US and should not express their disavowal of pagans during Hajj rituals.
The Leader underlined that Hajj is a social factor which contributes to unity and brotherhood, and at the same time, is a show of morality.
The Leader further noted that the Saudi government is duty-bound to respect and ensure the safety and dignity of Hajj pilgrims.
“Those who are in charge of the Hajj pilgrimage, shoulder heavy responsibilities,” said the Leader.
“Among their (officials) duties is to ensure the security of pilgrims, but they shouldn’t create a police state. They should preserve pilgrims’ respect and dignity,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
In September 2015, a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca.
Days into the incident, Saudi Arabia published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite gradually surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush.
Unofficial sources put the death toll at almost 7,000 people. Iran said about 465 of its nationals lost their lives in the incident.
Earlier that same month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, including 32 nationals from Iran.
Serious questions were raised about the competence of Saudi authorities to manage the Hajj rituals in the wake of the incidents, and, facing Saudi intransigence to cooperate and refusal to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims, officials in the Islamic Republic subsequently decided to halt pilgrimages over security concerns.
Saudi Arabia also unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad against the execution by Riyadh of eminent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.