NEWS BRIEF Millions of Muslims from around the world are descending upon Mecca this week to take part in the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage and one of the world’s largest gatherings. This unifying holy ritual, however, has not prevented sectarian rivalries from erupting between Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have publicly sparred over which country is best representative of Islam.
This latest diplomatic row follows comments made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Monday on the anniversary of last year’s deadly Hajj stampede, which killed as many as 2,411 pilgrims. Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of incompetence and called on Muslims to reconsider Saudi control over Islamic holy sites like Mecca. He said:
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. … Because of these rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj. Negligence in this regard will confront the Islamic Ummah with more serious problems in the future.
Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, responded Tuesday, saying Iran’s leaders were not real Muslims. He accused Iranian leaders of being sons of “majuws,” referring to Zoroastrians, one of Iran’s oldest religious minorities.