For the first time in nearly three decades, Iran’s 64,000 pilgrims are not attending the hajj in Saudi Arabia after the two regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics.
The deadlock hasn’t gone down well with Iran. Just days before this year’s hajj, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei questioned Saudi Arabia’s right to manage Islam’s holiest sites.
His statements led to mutual accusations throughout last week.
And while Saudi King Salman on Tuesday rejected any attempt to play politics with the Hajj, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javed Zarif has doubled down with a scathing opinion piece in The New York Times.
The NYT piece titled ‘Mohammed Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism‘ (yes, the headline carries his name) denounced Riyadh for promulgating Wahhabism across the region and called for an abolition of that ideology.
Zarif said “tainted petrodollars” are helping to fuel a narrative which is attempting to convince the world that the former al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group in Syria has now become a moderate group. This, he charged, is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to continuously support and fund such forces.
He claimed Riyadh’s actions were “based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran.”
Zarif said Riyadh is playing up fears of an Iranian threat in order to justify its continued support to dangerous Islamist groups across the region, which he stressed are as big a threat to Sunni Arabs as they are to Shias.
The Wahhabist ideology which Riyadh has promoted for decades, Zarif argued, has inspired, “virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam – from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria.”
Interestingly, Zarif concluded his article by suggesting Riyadh could possibly be part of solution (of getting rid of Wahhabism).
“We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all,” he wrote.
Social media users weren’t kind to the Iranian leader, with some pointing out how Iran is equally guilty of sponsoring terrorism in the region.