By Halil Celik
MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia
The holy sites in Saudi Arabia are for worship, not for political slogans, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah said Sunday.
“The holy sites are places for worship, not for political slogans or sectarian or religious strike,” Abdul Rahman as-Sudais said in a statement.
Around 3.5 million Muslims are preparing to start the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy sites in Saudi Arabia next week.
As-Sudais said Saudi authorities will not allow any attempt to raise slogans during the ritual.
Saudi Arabia “is keen on taking care of all Muslims and is seeking to bolster ties and solidarity among members of the Islamic nation in light of the current circumstances,” he said.
The Saudi imam said that “there is a war being waged on what Saudi Arabia is doing in the two Holy Mosques”, but without elaborating.
Iran and Saudi Arabia – two regional rivals – have been trading barbs over the annual Hajj pilgrimage in recent years.
While Tehran claims that Riyadh was placing restrictions to Iranian pilgrims during the Hajj, Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of “politicizing” the annual ritual.
Message of Islam
As-Sudais said Saudi Arabia was seeking to promote tolerance and co-existence.
“The message of the Kingdom is the message of Islam that is based on mercy, tolerance and co-existence,” he said.
“Terrorism has no religion or culture,” he said, going on to accuse parties of seeking to tarnish the image of Islam, but without naming these parties.
As-Sudais said this year’s sermon during the climax of the Hajj ritual will be translated into five languages: English, Indonesian, French, Urdu and Persian.
“This [translation] project would enable the users to benefit from translation in and around the holy sites,” he said.