Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Salih bin Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh stated that the hajj cannot be used as an instrument for sectarian and political purposes, tacitly warning Iran not to inject sectarian tensions into the hajj ritual.
“The hajj is performed for the sake of God. It cannot be used as an instrument for sectarian or political purposes,” said Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate on Tuesday, Minister Salih bin Abd al-Aziz, who visited Ankara at the invitation of the head of the directorate, Mehmet Görmez, guaranteed that, despite the recent tensions in the region, there would be no concerns over security during the hajj season, the world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims, adding that his country had taken the necessary precautions.
“The sectarian and political tensions in the Middle East region will not affect the hajj season. Muslims will be able to perform their religious duty in the holy land,” said Minister Salih bin Abd al-Aziz, who is a member of the Al al-Shaykh family, an influential Saudi religious Wahabi family.
Görmez stated that four main topics were discussed during the meeting with the Saudi minister. “In the past 10 years, we have witnessed assaults against holy values that have evolved into Islamophobia,” said Görmez, adding that such assaults and humiliations against their holy values should not be considered freedom of speech. He added that Muslims should develop a collective consciousness among themselves in order to react properly to such assaults.
“The [Saudi minister’s] visit took place at a time when the region is facing serious tensions under the name of sectarianism,” said Görmez, adding that religious institutions and religious leaders have a huge responsibility with regards to the tensions in the region.
According to Görmez, the third topic discussed during the meeting was the revision of the curriculum and programs in the universities and institutions that teach Islamic studies. “It is a known fact that Islamic studies produced by the Islamic world falls short of enlightening the path of Muslims,” said Görmez, calling on a religious mobilization of the Islamic world, which aims to enlighten the path of all Muslims.
The fourth issue addressed during the meeting was the problems faced by Muslim minorities all over the world, said Görmez, adding that Muslims need to cooperate to help Muslim minorities who are unprotected in various parts of the world. “With regards to the Muslim minority issue, there is lot to be done by Islamic religious institutions and religious leaders,” said Görmez, adding that Saudi Arabia and Turkey had close political and economic relations. “However, if these relations are not based on brotherhood, then they will not be long-lasting,” said Görmez.
The Saudi minister in return stated that the religious directorates of both countries had cooperated in different parts of the world, adding that the programs of both directorates would be united.
Underlining that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were two large Muslims countries, Minister Salih bin Abd al-Aziz stated that there were many issues that required the cooperation of both countries. “Muslims all over the world face many problems. There should be cooperation between our countries to prevent disputes among Muslims. There should be common work that will enable unity among Muslims,” he said.
Touching upon the necessity of protecting Islamic foundations in various countries, the minister said that cooperation is required to protect these foundations.
The Saudi minister, who will continue his meetings with top Turkish officials, is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozda? separately on Wednesday.