A Muslim organisation in India wants the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to stop “using” Muslim pilgrim places to exert political leverage on other Muslim countries.

However, the demand is not unanimous as not everybody here thinks that KSA should let go of its control over the Muslim pilgrim’s Haj.

The All India Tanzeem Ulama-e-Islam (AITUI) organised a conference and started a campaign to highlight the “politicisation” of Haj. Mufti Ashfaq Hussain Quadri, Founder-president of AITUI, said, “Al Sauds captured the holy land of Hijaz and since then, the Saudi Arabian regime is using holy places as political tool. They find Harmain (Holy Land) and Haj a diplomatic tool and wish to control the Islamic world by using it. We reproach the act.”

Explaining what “politicisation of Muslim pilgrim places” means, Javed Naqshband, associated with AITUI, said, “Saudis have used their linear power over Haj to get political mileage over countries that do not fall in line with their policies. They decide themselves how much quota (for pilgrims coming to perform Haj) to designate for what country, when to change that quota and why. We have the case of Qatar and Iran where people have to wait for years to perform Haj because Saudi does not allow enough number of seats. Nobody can stop or deny a Muslim, his or her right to perform Haj.”

“But the Saudis’ changing foreign relations affect their Haj policies towards different nations,” he added.

Mufti also urged the Indian government to take back the permission granted to Muslim women to travel without a Mehram (male guardian).

He said, “This is nothing but a face saving move. It has nothing to do with empowering women. Saudi Arabia has been using its oversight of the Haj to bolster its standing in the Muslim world—and to spite its foes.”

Shahid Pradhan, a political thinker and scholar, said, “Haj is being used to propagate its Wahhabi theology. They insult non-Wahhabi performers and use Haj as a political implement. Harmain must be controlled by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) or a similar Islamic consortium. That will stop them from accessing holy places as opinionated contrivance.”

However, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, New Delhi, said, “I will agree that in some arrangements, the Saudi government might not be right. For example, I do not welcome the policy that makes pilgrims pay additional 2,000 Rials if they have already performed Umrah before. Other than this, I do not think that it is easy to manage lakhs of pilgrims and the Saudi government has been doing a good job of it. But yes, I do not support political use of pilgrim places. Irrespective of how your relations are with any country, access to Mecca cannot be denied to any Muslim.

“As far as the demand to let OIC control pilgrim places is concerned, I do not think that OIC has any legitimacy or authority. If they really are the representatives of Muslims, then what have they managed to do in Myanmar or Syria or Yemen?,” Syed Ahmed Bukhari asked.


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