Following Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s damaging remarks against Saudi Arabia and calls for reviewing the management of the annual Hajj, Riyadh, through its Foreign Affairs Minister, responded by stating that Tehran is “politicizing” the fifth pillar of Islam in an attempt to shift attention away from its internal problems.
The kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh downplayed the comments of the Iranian supreme leader as he explained that “we have to understand that they are not Muslims” but “followers of magus”; a term that refers to Zoroastrianism, the dominant belief in Persia until the Muslim- Arab invasion of today’s Iran.
Khamenei alleged that “because of these (Saudi) rulers’ oppressive behavior toward God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of the Hajj.”
The Supreme leader also claimed that “the heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst” before blatantly saying “they murdered them.”
Grand Mufti al-Sheikh said “their (Iranians who are predominantly Shias) enmity toward Muslims is old and their main enemies are the followers of Sunnah (Sunnis)” while Minister Jubeir urged Tehran to cooperate with travel and visa arrangements to ensure that its pilgrims participate in the annual gathering.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif reacted to the Saudi Grand Mufti’s comments on Twitter pointing out that “indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach.”
With the Hajj to begin on Saturday, the exchange of words between authorities and influential leaders of the two countries is expected to continue as part of the proxy war between Shias and Sunnis.