The decision by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz to open land borders with Qatar for the entry of Qatari pilgrims proves that the kingdom does not exploit religious duties for the sake of politics. King Salman’s issuance of several decrees to facilitate Haj pilgrimage for Qataris has been broadly praised by Gulf citizens and officials. Early yesterday, the king ruled that: 1) The Salwa land border crossing with Qatar be opened. 2) He offered to pay for Qatari flights to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj. 3) He offered Saudi Arabian Airlines to fly the pilgrims in for free. 4) He waived electronic permits for Qatari pilgrims.
Previously, Qataris registered to perform Haj were told to fly into Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh maintained its ban on Qatar Airways and kept its land border closed after a serious diplomatic rift emerged between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on one side and Qatar on the other. The Arab bloc accuses Qatar of financing terrorism and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has tirelessly worked to make Saudi Arabia appear as the aggressor in the international community.
The situation got entirely out of hand when the Qatari-backed Al Jazeera television network suggested that Haj operations be internationalised, claiming Saudis were discriminating against Qatari citizens from carrying out their religious duties. It has also spread lies by saying that Qatari citizens were banned from entering the Grand Mosque. Saudi officials, shocked by the outrageous suggestion, declared the call “a declaration of war”.
Despite their countless attempts, Qatar has largely failed to prove its isolation. However, instead of stooping to Qatar’s level, King Salman has shown the kingdom’s true humanitarian face and a big heart.
Haj is a religious duty on all Muslims who are financially and physically capable of making the journey. Therefore, to taint the holy occasion by throwing around reckless accusations, is a serious offence and Qatar should be called out on that. Saudi Arabia has made it abundantly clear that all pilgrims, regardless of their country’s politics, are welcome to carry out their religious obligations in the kingdom.
King Salman has done a commendable service to Qataris and gone above and beyond lifting land border closures by offering to finance their pilgrimages.
The offer speaks volumes of the Saudi kingdom’s commitment to helping Muslims all over the world carry out their religious duties and is a loud-and-clear response to Qatar’s senseless accusations.