Tyrants and the Hajj

Dictators in the region have consistently politicized the Hajj pilgrimage

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

Dictators in the region have consistently politicized the Hajj pilgrimage with the intention to diminish Saudi Arabia’s role whenever a political disagreement erupts with Riyadh.

Late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, who was obsessed with disagreeing with Saudi Arabia, used to do. He often verbally attacked Saudi Arabia by exploiting the stories of Hajj and the two holy mosques because he felt that Saudi Arabia possessed a religious significance which he would never have been able to attain.

Qaddafi then began to address people in Libya and gathered thousands from Africa as he considered himself “the king of kings” of Africa. He even tasked his media outlets with attacking Saudi Arabia and commissioned former regime poet Ali al-Kilani to write several poems against the Saudi kingdom.

Iran is repeating such actions. Political disputes must not be involved in religious rituals. This is what Shiite cleric Ali al-Amin insists as Hajj is a duty that cannot be politicized and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei do not have the right to amend any shariah principles and duties or any of Islam’s tenets.

It’s a shame that Iran banned its citizens from performing Hajj due to a political dispute. Saudi Arabia has had major disputes with many countries and even fought wars with some but it has always remained neutral when it comes to Hajj and the two holy mosques due to their sanctity.

Although Saudi Arabia was involved in a relentless war against Iraq, as it was part of the Coalition for the liberation of Kuwait, the countries which stood by the then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were not affected during the Hajj season.

It’s an old practice that has served as blackmail ever since the era of Qaddafi and later during Saddam Hussein’s rule and it will not end with Ali Khamenei.

This article was first published in Okaz on Sept. 12, 2016.


Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

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