Tuesday August 21, 2018
Saudi Arabia's international feuds have spilled over into the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Qatar has accused the kingdom of barring its citizens, while Canadians fear being stranded there after Saudi Arabia suspended flights to Toronto following a spat over the kingdom's human rights record.
More than two million Muslims are in Mecca for the six-day ritual starting on Sunday. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim with the means must fulfil once.
Qatar, which Saudi Arabia blockaded in 2017, has said more than 1,200 eligible citizens have been barred from performing the pilgrimage, something the kingdom has denied.
"There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for Hajj," Abdullah al-Kaabi, who runs the state's human rights committee, told Reuters. "Registration of pilgrims from the State of Qatar remains closed."
Saudi authorities have denied the claims and blamed Qatar.
A pro-government newspaper, Okaz, went as far as to call on Qataris to "rise up" against their ruling family whom it accused of "annulling the fifth pillar of Islam."
Canadians have also been affected by their the crisis between their government and Saudi Arabia, which expelled Ottawa's ambassador and suspended flights by its national carrier on August 13 after Canada criticised a crackdown on dissidents.
Flights before the suspension were not affected but there are concerns about how pilgrims will return.
Saudi Arabia prides itself on managing Islam's holiest sites, and is sensitive to accusations that its increasingly muscular foreign policy has affected its obligations to all Muslims.
While the Qatar blockade was also enforced by Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, no country joined Saudi Arabia in its financial sanctions on Canada, seen as a sign that the kingdom will tolerate no criticism even as it unfolds reforms including allowing women to drive.