Manama: Saudi Arabia has reiterated its strict zero-tolerance policy towards any attempt by anyone to disrupt security, undermine safety or upset pilgrims’ well-being during Haj, stressing that its forces were fully ready to deal with any contingency or incident.
“Haj has its own sanctity in time and place, and the aim of all efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia is to ensure the safety of the pilgrims and to provide them with the most adequate ways to perform Haj,” Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Mohammad Bin Nayef said. “Therefore, there is an absolute zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who targets the genuine purposes of Haj or the safety of the pilgrims. All decisions by the judiciary against anyone found guilty of targeting Haj will be strictly applied.”
Prince Mohammad was addressing a press conference after inspecting Haj security forces in Mina, on the outskirts of Makkah, where around three million Muslims are expected to congregate on Saturday to start the six-day Haj season.
In his statement, he stressed, “Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (the king), welcomes all pilgrims and dedicates all its potential and facilities to serve them and help them perform Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, easily and safely.
“The kingdom this year will continue this long-standing tradition and will put all its facilities and potential to provide the safest and most secure environment for pilgrims. Saudi Arabia is of course considering all possibilities to ensure the highest levels of security and precautionary plans and measures. Thanks to the effective implementation of the plans, outstanding successes have been achieved and pilgrims perform their Haj smoothly and securely.”
The crown prince rejected claims by Iranian officials that Saudi Arabia had prevented Iranians from performing Haj this year.
Saudi Arabia and Iran had failed to reach an agreement over the procedures to be followed by Iranians during the Haj season, and Tehran decided not to allow Iranians to perform pilgrimage this year.
However, Riyadh said it had no objection to issuing pilgrimage visas to Iranians living outside Iran through accredited tour operators.
“What is being alleged by the Iranian media and some Iranian officials lacks credibility and objectivity,” Prince Mohammad said. They are the first to know that Saudi Arabia has presented to the Iranian pilgrims, like to all pilgrims, all facilities. However, this year, the Iranian mission has made requests that clash with the purposes of Haj and that are not in line with the commitments of all the other missions. The Iranian requests put the security of the pilgrims, including the Iranians themselves, at risk and violate the sanctity of the premises and the occasion.”
Prince Mohammad added, “Saudi Arabia does not tolerate anything from the Iranians or other nationalities that violates the rituals of Haj, undermines security or affects the lives, security and safety of the pilgrims.
“It is the Iranian officials who do not want the Iranian citizens to perform Haj for particular reasons related to the politicisation of Haj and to transforming it into a place for slogans that violate the tenets of Islam and undermine the security of the pilgrims. This is something that we do not accept and cannot let happen. We do stand resolutely and forcefully against anyone who targets security and safety during Haj.”
Prince Mohammad told the media Saudi Arabia was looking forward to full commitment by all pilgrims to the spirit of Haj and full compliance with the rules put in place to ensure smooth rituals.
“We do hope that all pilgrims will rise to the sanctity of the occasion and do not become involved in anything that implicates them in religious and legal violations and their consequences. We want all pilgrims to enjoy the services and facilities provided by Saudi Arabia to help them perform their Haj within a secure and comfortable environment,” he said.
The crown prince said that pilgrims from Yemen were welcome to the kingdom. The kingdom has been leading an international coalition to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi following a rebellion by Al Houthi rebels and their ally, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“We welcome pilgrims from all over the world, and we do welcome the pilgrims from Yemen as we always have. We provide the Yemenis with all the facilities and we do appreciate their situation. However, they are prevented from the Haj by Al Houthis and their supporters who want to exploit this grand religious occasion for their own propagandistic purposes that are now clear to everyone and that the Yemenis understand very well.”
Prince Mohammad said that Saudi Arabia was resolved and ready to deal with any attempt to breach security during Haj.
“While carrying out this grand Islamic mission, Saudi Arabia has taken into consideration all possibilities and its agencies are fully prepared to deal with any incident,” he said.