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Qatar condemns Saudi 'politicisation' of hajj pilgrimage

The hajj is to take place this year at the beginning of September [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2017

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Qatar's religious authorities have condemned reports in Saudi media that Doha has suspended registration for the hajj pilgrimage.

Qatar's religious authorities have condemned reports in Saudi media that Doha has suspended registration for the hajj pilgrimage amid the diplomatic spat between the Gulf state and a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries.

The Qatari Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs said in a statement on Sunday that Riyadh has failed to guarantee the safety of Qatari pilgrims to Mecca, the site of the annual hajj that falls next month.

"The fabricated news that has recently been published by Saudi media... aims to distort the truth and put obstacles in the way of pilgrims," the statement, which was carried by the state-run Qatar News Agency, said.

Ali Sultan al-Musaifri, the head of the ministry's hajj department, said that registration for hajj was open during March and was closed at the end of the month in compliance with usual procedures.

Musaifri said 20 thousand Qataris and residents of Qatar applied to make the pilgrimage but that Saudi hajj ministry has failed to guarantee the safety of the pilgrims.

"In recent weeks, Qataris who have made the umrah pilgrimage have been exposed to unwarranted obstacles and harassment," he said.

He added that Doha was waiting for assurances from Riyadh that Qatari pilgrims will be safe and an apology for "politicising" one of the pillars of Islam that all capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime.

On Saturday, Qatar filed a complaint to the United Nations over restrictions imposed on Qatari pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia responded saying that Qatar's alleged demands to "internationalise" the hajj was a "declaration of war"against the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia responded saying that Qatar's alleged demands to "internationalise" the hajj was a "declaration of war" against the kingdom.

"Qatar's demands to internationalise the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom," Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said, according to Al Arabiya.

"We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalisation of the holy sites," he said, despite Doha never making such a demand.

The Saudi hajj ministry said last week that Qataris and residents of the Gulf emirate could join the pilgrimage if they were as they were already "electronically registered for the hajj" and they had the necessary permits from Riyadh and Doha.

But the ministry imposed restrictions on Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane, saying they must use airlines in agreement with the Saudi authorities.

It added that they also needed to get visas on arrival in Jeddah or Medina, their sole points of entry in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions on Doha in June, including the closure of their airspace to Qatari airlines.

The four Arab states accuse Qatar of supporting extremists and of growing too close to Shia-dominated Iran, the regional arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Doha has categorically denied the allegations.

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