In a statement on Monday, the Syrian Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) said that the requirement to perform pilgrimage is not ensured because this duty is being “politicized by the Wahhabi Saudi authorities despite the Ministry’s repeated contacts with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Saudi Ministry of Hajj in this regard through the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry.”
The statement dismissed the “political and financial exploitation” practiced by the Saudi authorities against some individuals through some tourism offices in Lebanon as they are investing “one of the great pillars of Islam” through the so-called “Syrian High Hajj Committee” which is affiliated “to the enemies of the homeland”.
Syria’s statement came after Qatar harshly criticized Saudi Arabia for politicizing the annual pilgrimage and putting restrictions on Qatari citizens flying to Mecca.
Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) lodged a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of belief and religion over what it called a “stark violation of international laws and agreement that guarantee the right to worship.”
In a statement cited by Al Jazeera, the commission said it is “extremely concerned over [Saudi Arabia] politicizing religious rituals and using [Hajj] to achieve political gains” and said it was filing another claim against Riyadh with UNESCO over the maltreatment of Qataris.
Qatar’s human rights commission also protested that Saudi Arabia has made it extremely difficult for many Qataris to reach Mecca by stipulating that they can only land at two Saudi airports – King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Medina.
However, following a Sunday meeting of the so-called Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) of Arab states which are embroiled in a conflict with Qatar, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir lashed out at Doha, accusing it of politicizing the Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim has to perform at least once in their lifetime, according to RT.
Speaking following Sunday’s meeting, al-Jubeir dismissed allegations that Saudi Arabia is infringing on religious freedoms, saying it “welcomes all Muslims from around the world who visit the country for their pilgrimage.” He accused Qatar of blowing the issue out of proportion as a pretext to “sway people’s attention from the core issue at the heart of this crisis – its [Doha’s] support and funding of terrorism.”