Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for politicization of the Islamic ritual of Hajj pilgrimage, describing it as “political work” on Wednesday.
Khamenei said that not politicizing the Hajj was “a great mistake,” adding that to support the oppressed is an Islamic duty, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Khamenei called on Saudi Arabia to ensure the safety of Hajj pilgrims, but said that to oppose and prevent the politicization of Hajj is “anti-religion.”
He added that while Saudi Arabia “has the heavy duty of providing security for pilgrims,” it should not make the environment centered around security.
The politicization of Hajj by Iran has been a major concern for Saudi Arabia since the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Hajj is a sacred religious ritual that unites Muslims despite their political differences. However, since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran has repeatedly attempted to exploit the Hajj to spread its political messages and agendas.
Iranian politicization of the Hajj has often had deadly results. The Iranian regime provoked riots in Hajj in 1987 and 1989, leading to hundreds of deaths.
Last year, more than 2.3 million pilgrims took part in Hajj. This year Hajj starts on 9 August and continues until 14 August.