On the eve of the greater Hajj from which Iranian pilgrims are excluded, Iran’s Grand Ayatollah attacks the leadership in Riyadh, appealing to Muslims to reconsider "the management of the holy places." In the background lies the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia for supremacy in the Middle East (and Islam).
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an angry rebuke to "blasphemous" regional rival Saudi Arabia on Monday, calling on the Muslim world to question its management of Islam's holiest sites.
Iran's supreme leader and Shia Islam’s foremost religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hit hard against Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders a few days before the start of the great pilgrimage, the Hajj, which will not see the participation of Iranians for the first time in 30 years.
Talks between Tehran and Riyadh over Iranian Hajj pilgrims failed in late May due to a dispute over visas and direct flights from Iran to Saudi Arabia, and this means no Iranians in Makkah.
“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarize themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent and materialistic nature,” Khamenei said.
Appealing to all Muslims, he calls on them to “reconsider the management of the two holy places” in Saudi Arabia, namely Makkah and Madinah. “Negligence in this regard will confront the Islamic Ummah with more serious problems in the future.”
The new warning from the highest Shia Muslim leader reflects, once again, the serious tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both committed to extending their influence on Islam and the region.
Khamenei accuses Saudi leaders “of oppression” and “alliances with Zionism and the U.S”, and that, to do so, “they do not shy away from any treason.”
Saudi Mideast policy is at the centre of the Grand Ayatollah’s invective. He blames Riyadh for “forming and arming wicked takfiri groups” who “have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars, murdering and injuring the innocent and shed blood in Yemen, Iraq, the Levant”. Saudi leaders are “small and puny satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the U.S.”.
Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are on opposite sides on many Mideast issues, from the Syrian conflict to the war in Yemen.
Making matters worse, the Saudis carried out the execution a Shia dignitary in the kingdom earlier this year, which was followed by the attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran and its subsequent closure.
Relations between the two Muslim powers were already at historic lows since September 2015, after the dramatic incident during the last pilgrimage to Makkah.
A tragic brawl in Mina, near Makkah, caused thousands of casualties, 2,070 according to Reuters.
Iran has accused Saudi authorities of mismanagement and incompetence, claiming the incident was premeditated.
For Muslims, Hajj (pilgrimage) is one of the five pillars of Islam that every good Muslim should perform at least once in his or her life.
Saudi Arabia has often used its power to grant entry visas for political purposes. For example, Syrians have not been allowed to travel to the Muslim holy cities for many years.