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Gulf states, Pakistan slam Iranian attempt to politicize pilgrimage

The GCC chief’s comments came in the wake of Iran’s refusal to sign the annual agreement for this year’s hajj and a ban imposed on its Umrah pilgrims

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) slammed on Friday the Iranian attempts to politicize the annual pilgrimage of hajj and misuse it to harm Saudi Arabia. Abdullatif Al-Zayani, secretary-general of the six-member GCC, said in a statement that the Gulf states denounced the move by Iran to politicize hajj through putting hurdles to block a final agreement with Saudi Arabia in facilitating the arrival of Iranian pilgrims to perform the pilgrimage during the upcoming season.

“The GCC states emphasize that the Iranian officials should realize that hajj is a sacred religious duty for all Muslims and it should not be linked to political stances or differences between countries under any circumstances,” he said while urging Iran to cooperate with the concerned Saudi authorities to finalize arrangements so that pilgrims from the country can fulfill the obligatory religious duty, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Zayani expressed appreciation of the GCC states to the government of Saudi Arabia for its utmost keenness and care in the case of hajj and umrah pilgrims as well as visitors to the two holy mosques.

The GCC chief’s comments came in the wake of Iran’s refusal to sign the annual agreement for this year’s hajj and a ban imposed on its Umrah pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Taher Mahmoud Al-Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Scholars Council, lauded the great efforts being made by the government of Saudi Arabia in offering the best possible services and facilities for hajj and umrah pilgrims.

In a statement issued in Lahore on Friday, he categorically rejected demands raised by the Iranian Hajj delegation for signing a bilateral agreement for this year’s hajj.

“The performance of hajj rituals is a religious duty of Muslims and making arrangements for the performance of hajj in the holy land is a sovereign right of Saudi Arabia. And hence, the Islamic Ummah will reject any interference in this matter,” Al-Ashrafi said while warning Iran against politicizing the pilgrimage.

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on May 14, 2016.