Saudi says no place for ‘political slogans’ during Hajj

Saudi Arabia has said there is no room for political slogans during the Hajj pilgrimage [Getty]

The Saudi government has reiterated its stance that the annual Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj is strictly a religious event for worship only, rather than a venue for political expression.

According to multiple reports, Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabia said, “Hajj is for worship, not for any political slogans”, adding that the leadership was committed to ensuring the pilgrimage “embodies the highest levels of devotion, tranquillity and spirituality.”

The statement was in response to a journalist who had asked the minister about the rules and punitive measures regarding the display of “political and sectarian slogans”.

The statement comes as millions of people from around the world head to Mecca for the pilgrimage, after the Saudi Supreme Court announced that it will begin on 14 June and Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of it, will be on 16 June.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a duty for all Muslims to perform at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy and financially able to do so.

While it is commonplace for the authorities to ensure there are no political symbols displayed during the pilgrimage, the statement has stirred questions over if it was in apparent reference to showing solidarity with Gaza amidst Israel’s brutal war on the enclave.

Last month, the Saudi government reportedly increased its arrests of citizens criticising Israel on social media, Bloomberg reported citing officials and activists.

Despite the kingdom not formally recognising Israel since its creation in 1948, speculation has been rife regarding a potential normalization deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv following a similar move by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The kingdom’s foreign ministry said in February that normalisation with Israel will not take place without a Gaza ceasefire and steps taken towards achieving Palestinian statehood.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed over 36,700 Palestinians since October and wounded at least 83,000 others in the same time frame. The bombardment has devastated the enclave and levelled entire neighbourhoods.

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