Sunni leader defends Saudi hosting of Islam’s holiest sites

Published: September 12, 2016
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This file photo taken on June 05, 2008 shows an Iranian Shia Muslim pilgrim praying in front of the Kaaba (C) inside Makkah's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest shrine. PHOTO: AFP

This file photo taken on June 05, 2008 shows an Iranian Shia Muslim pilgrim praying in front of the Kaaba (C) inside Makkah's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest shrine. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting Iranian supreme leader’s remarks about the Saudi handling of holy sites, Ansarul Umma leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil has asked the four Sunni sects to defend the latter with a united stance.

Earlier on September 5, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Muslim world should challenge Saudi management of Islam’s two holiest sites in Makkah and Madina.

According to Iranian supreme leader, Saudis did not prosecute those at fault for the stampede and “refused to allow an international Islamic fact-finding committee”.

Iranians are ‘not Muslims’, says top Saudi cleric

The statement prompted Saudi Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh’s remarks who said Iranians were not Muslims and that their hostility towards Muslims was an old one.

Last year’s Hajj stampede killed 2,297 pilgrims, according to a toll compiled from foreign officials. Iran said its nationals accounted for 464 of the dead.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Khalil said all Barelvis, Ahl-e-Hadith and Malikis to come out against their ‘common enemy’ to defend the holiest places of Islam.

The Sunni leader went on to add that the Iranian statement was actually part of their hundreds of years old wish to seek management of the two holiest sites.

Muslims should reconsider letting Saudis manage Hajj, holy sites: Khamenei

For the first time in almost three decades, Iranians will not participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah after talks on logistics and security fell apart.

The verbal sparring, ahead of the Hajj which this year starts on Saturday, following months of tension between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and its Shia regional rival Iran since the stampede.

Riyadh severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in January after protesters attacked its embassy and a consulate in Iran after the execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia.

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