Is it time to say No to the Saudi Politicization of Islamic Holy Sites?

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Yasser M. Dhouib



It is common knowledge now that the Gulf crisis, starting with the unilateral embargo on the State of Qatar on June 5, 2017, has shed light on a very important issue that has existed inherently but never been given any prominence in international politics, with regard to the MENA Region (Middle East-North Africa).


This current stance in international political opinion is not necessarily linked to a lack of interest, but is more due to the sensitivity of the issue at stake.


It involves millions of people across the world who claim to be followers of the Islamic faith, moreover it is an issue of great pertinence, though is linked to a sacred act of faith that is dear to many Muslims, namely the Haj, the Muslim pilgrimage which is considered the fifth pillar of that religion. The Muslim pilgrimage is an act of faith that consists of every Muslim visiting the holy site once in their life.


It is of course worth explaining to Canadian public the human rights consequences for such grave Saudi actions. I would certainly take a very pertinent approach to make the issue closer to western understanding.


Let’s imagine if thousands of Canadian Catholics were humiliated and prevented by Vatican authorities from attending the (URBI and ORBI) of the Pope. Or thousands of Christians not allowed to enter the Bethlehem church during Christmas festivities due to political division. These actions would be considered a very grave breach of humans rights of worship.


And this is exactly the embargo imposed on the State of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, and its Gulf partners, they were indeed aiming to deprive thousands of Qatari citizens and residents this sacred religious obligation. Among them were many Canadians who by the fact of their Qatari residency in that country would be put on the Saudi embargo list, being technically unable to perform Haj and Umrah (pilgrimage).


The cases of such dire human rights abuses were recorded with many acts of negligence noticed, among them acts of racism and harassment on elders noticed vis a vis Qatari residents.


The NHRC Qatari National Human Rights Committee has recorded numerous serious human rights abuses on Qatar citizens performing Umrha, last year the Haj season of 2017 being totally closed to Qatari citizens and residents.


These Saudi abuses ought to invoke the necessity of opening a debate on the pertinence and inadequacies of their self imposed guardianship of the holy Islamic sites. Indeed KSA has miserably mismanaged this guardianship by making this privilege a political tool to fight political dissent internally, in addition to sanctioning foreign countries, among them Qatar, their citizens and residents.


To summarize this important human rights issue I would certainly condemn the politicization of religion by the KSA authorities. This government is conducting an openly racist policy towards Qatari pilgrims and I call this a religious apartheid, not acceptable by international human rights standards.


The supposedly new political Saudi Spring by MBS (Mohammad bin Salman) is not taken seriously by the West, among them Canada. Clamping down on political and religious moderate opposition is surely not a guarantor of democratic immunity.


As for Canadians I would think from a Canadian government perspective, cases of human rights abuses in KSA are not new. One should think of the Saudi political figure Raif Badawi who is still detained in Saudi jails.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau therefore needs to have a very active leadership on the Gulf crisis and the current Haj crisis embargo on Qatari citizens and residents who happen to be Canadians.






Yasser M. Dhouib

Yasser is a Political And Human Rights Activist in Montreal, Canada. Advocating on issues relating to integration, inclusion and participation of minority communities in the broader Canadian and Quebec society, as well as addressing concerns related to discrimination and unemployment. He Is author of many articles in Aljazeera about the current crisis In the Gulf.

He is currently President of The Canadian Coalition Against The Embargo On the State of Qatar. Public Relations Specialist (PR Specialist) Outreach Muslim Community Volunteer.

Vice President of The Canadian-Qatari Friendship Association CQFA-AACQ and Vice President de l’association d’amitie Canado-Qatarie AACQ-CQFA.

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