‘Iranians Are Not Muslims’ Claims Saudi Arabia’s Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Ibn Abdullah In Response To Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Scathing Comments On Haj Pilgrimage Stampede

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh responded to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments by saying “Iranians are not Muslims.” The Grand Mufti supposedly reacted to the Iran’s leader’s scathing comments on the way Saudi Arabia had handled last’s year’s stampede at the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca that allegedly killed over 2,000 pilgrims. Saudi Arabia has banned pilgrims from Iran to this year’s pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric declared that Iran’s leaders and the citizens of the nation aren’t Muslims. He added that Iran’s predominantly Shia population regard Sunni Muslims as their enemy. The unusually harsh rhetoric and rebuke between the powerful, influential and revered leaders occurred over the way Saudi Arabia organizes and conducts the annual Haj pilgrimage.

The harsh exchange of words will undoubtedly widen the gap between Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly a Sunni kingdom, and the Shi’ite revolutionary power. Over 90 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia is Sunni Muslim, while that of Iran is more than 95 percent Shia. These two major denominations of Islam have been at loggerheads for over 1,300 years and by the looks of things, the conflict is nowhere near an amicable resolution.

Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposing sides in the ongoing civil war in Syria as well as quite a few active conflicts in the Middle East. However, tensions between the two nations started deteriorating after Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in January following the storming of its embassy in Tehran. Ironically, it was Saudi Arabia’s execution of a dissident Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr that is said to have sparked the tensions.

However, Iran’s Supreme Leader has been openly upset about the way Saudi Arabia orchestrates the annual Haj pilgrimage which is attended by millions of Muslims from across the world. The Haj pilgrimage, considered the holiest among Muslim is an annual congregation at the Mecca and Medina.

Specifically, Ayatollah criticized Saudi Arabia about the stampede last year, which resulted in the death of hundreds of pilgrims. The stampede occurs when the pilgrims rush from one place to another to strike one of the three large stones that represent the devil. The slow, weak and infirm are caught between the human tidal wave. The heat and exhaustion combined with the religious euphoria are often blamed for the aggressive movement and the resultant stampede.

According to claims by multiple countries, 2,426 people, including 464 Iranians, were killed in last year’s stampede. However, Saudi Arabia insists only 769 Muslim died in the unfortunate incident.

Last year’s stampede was one of the worst in recorded history, claimed Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message published on Monday. He openly and harshly criticized Saudi Arabia claiming the kingdom’s authorities had “murdered” some of the innocent pilgrims. He even added the kingdom’s rulers were godless and irreligious.

“The hesitation and failure to rescue the half dead and injured people… is also obvious and incontrovertible. They murdered them. The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers. Instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst, they murdered them.”

While Ayatollah offered no supporting evidence for his claims, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh responded by saying he is not surprised, and added,

“We have to understand that they are not Muslims… Their main enemies are the followers of Sunnah (Sunnis). They are the son of the Magi and their hostility towards Muslims is an old one, especially with the People of the Tradition [Sunnis].”

Through his comments, the Grand Mufti attempted to stress Iranians were Zoroastrianism, a highly dominant belief in Persia until the Muslim Arab invasion. Iran was a result of invasion that took place 13 centuries ago.

Saudi Arabia has categorically banned pilgrims from Iran from attending the Haj pilgrimage that starts from 11 September.

[Photo by Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images]