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Saudi Islamic affairs minister apologises for kissing woman in public

This year's hajj takes place amid tensions in the Gulf region [Twitter]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2019

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Saudi Arabia's minister of Islamic affairs has apologised after he was criticised for kissing a Hajj pilgrim whose husband was killed in the New Zealand mosque attacks earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia's minister of Islamic affairs has apologised after he was criticised for kissing a Hajj pilgrim whose husband was killed in the New Zealand mosque attacks earlier this year.

Sheikh Abdullatif Al al-Sheikh told local media on Monday that he kissed the elderly pilgrim to console her for her loss after conservatives condemned the minister online.

"What happened was seen by all and was definitely spontaneous. God makes us merciful in our hearts," Sheikh Abdullatif said.

"We have human hearts - not animals' or stone. There is no doubt that our religion Islam raises us to be merciful," he added.

The minister faced a barrage of criticism on Saudi Twitter over footage of him consoling the grieving widow as he greeted her in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

"Islam prohibits any physical contact with women unless wife, sister, ect. What he did was wrong," one user complained.

"The minister owes an apology to the public for his behavior, even if it was spontaneous. What is considered haram is forbidden. He embraced a non-mahram woman. We are waiting for his apology."

Other users said the minister's display of emotion showed "a new era back to Islamic moderation" in the kingdom.

Saudi authorities are hosting 200 family members of victims of the Christchurch attacks for Hajj. More than 2.5 million Muslims will on Friday begin the pilgrimage.

This year's Hajj takes place amid tensions in the Gulf region exacerbated by a series of attacks on oil tankers, drone strikes and interceptions of maritime traffic on the high seas.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims must perform it at least once in their lives if they can afford to.

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