#BoycottHajj: Muslims call for action against Saudi Arabia
More than two million Muslims are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia this year for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, but there have been growing calls worldwide for a boycott.
The Hajj pilgrimage season begins this year on August 9, but some Muslims will be staying away because of Saudi Arabia’s internal and external policies, particularly its intervention in Yemen, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and its persecution of activists and dissidents.
The Australian broadcaster SBS recently featured interviews with Australian Muslims who said they would be boycotting Hajj.
"Going for Hajj would financially contribute to the Saudi regime, which currently is carrying out mass atrocities in Yemen against fellow Muslims. This is not what the Hajj is meant to be about," Fayaaz Rahman, a 31-year old filmmaker told SBS.
A Malaysian lecturer, Mukhriz Mat Rus meanwhile said that Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations prompted him to change his mind about going on the pilgrimage this year, despite previously registering his interest with Malaysian authorities.
"The Muslim community all over the world, where is our stand on this?... Some people say put aside politics, but I don’t think I am able to reconcile that," he said.
One of the main Islamic religious figures calling for a boycott is Libya’s controversial Grand Mufti, Sadiq Al-Ghariani.
Muslims are required by their faith to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime, if they are able to. They can also perform the pilgrimage again if they wish.
However, Ghariani declared last April that anyone performing the Hajj for a second time would be "committing a sin" because the money they paid to Saudi Arabia to do so would "help Saudi Arabian rulers to carry out crimes against our fellow Muslims."
Ghariani is an outspoken opponent of rogue Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are fighting the internationally recognised government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj for control of the Libyan capital Tripoli. Saudi Arabia is among Haftar’s key backers.
Ghariani has also accused Saudi Arabia of "massacring" Muslims in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes have killed civilians, and Sudan, where Saudi Arabia has backed ruling military officers whose forces have killed protesters calling for civilian rule.
Meanwhile, a senior official of the Tunisian Union of Imams, Fadhel Ashour, has also called for a boycott, saying that the money used for the Hajj is used to "kill and displace people as is the case currently in Yemen". He advised Tunisians to spend their money instead on helping poor people in Tunisia.
On Twitter, the hashtag #BoycottHajj has been trending in some Muslim countries. Among those also calling for a boycott is American Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Some Twitter users pointed out that a Hajj boycott had previously taken place in the early 20th century in response to the destruction of tombs in Mecca by followers of the puritanical Wahhabi doctrine.
However, other Twitter users criticised the boycott, either objecting to the politicisation of religion or saying that the boycott would be ineffectual because Saudi Arabia gives Hajj visas to a fixed number of people.
Global pilgrimage to Mecca is considered a vital source of income for Saudi Arabia, reaching $20 billion annually and amounting to 20 percent of non-oil GDP.
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