Doha, August 22: The verbal spat between Qatar and four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt continues. Though Saudi Arabia has allowed Qataris for Haj pilgrimages, Doha expressed several concerns over some of the policies of a kingdom. Qatar slammed Saudi Arabia and expressed its surprise at the announcement by Kingdom that Qatari pilgrims can travel only by Saudi Arabian Airlines to perform Haj.
The Qatar’s Foreign Ministry's Information Office Director, Ambassador Ahmed bin Saeed al-Rumaihi in a statement on Monday expressed its surprise at the announcement by Saudi Arabia that Qatari pilgrims can travel only by Saudi Arabian Airlines to perform Haj.
Ambassador Ahmed said in a statement that limiting the transport of Qatari pilgrims to Saudi Arabian Airlines only is unprecedented, illogical, surprising and contravenes the teachings of Islam, which urge the facilitation of performing this duty to all Muslims. He also noted that it is usual and customary for pilgrims from any country to be transported by the national air, land and sea travel organizations in that country, in addition to other foreign means of transportation, with the latter taking place as part of the national Haj mission.
He pointed out that in previous cases of the severing of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and other countries, this demand for transferring pilgrims of those countries on Saudi Arabian Airlines has not been made. He stressed that Qatar and Qatari pilgrims did not need aid for covering the cost of Haj and portraying it as a charity because there are other beneficiaries who need charity more than Qatari pilgrims.
The official stressed the need to separate Haj from political differences between states and not to hinder its performance by placing conditions that affect the sovereignty of states or the rights and dignity of their citizens. It is also important to stay away from exploiting it as a tool for political manipulation, he added.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia has allowed Qataris for Haj pilgrimages after King Salman ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses. But Doha had denied a claim from Saudi Arabian Airlines accusing Qatari authorities of refusing to allow one of its flights to land at Hamad International Airport. An official source in the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority said the claim was "baseless".
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and several other nations cut ties with Qatar and imposed stringent economic sanctions on it over supporting extremism. On the other side, Qatar denied all their allegations saying that they never supported Islamist militants and Shi'ite Iran.
Importantly, the Haj, which is a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September. Over 1.8 million pilgrims took part in last year’s Haj.