The annual Hajj pilgrimage has de facto been cancelled for Qatari citizens and residents.
This is due to the impasse between Qatar and the bloc of nations led by Saudi Arabia.
In June 2017, a Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations in Gulf cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar. Qatar has remained isolated with the blockage of its air, sea, and land links. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt alleged that Qatar sponsored terrorism in the region – a charge that Qatar has denied.
A stalemate has now existed in West Asia between a bloc led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson visited the region and yet there have been no signs of progress. In the midst, Qatar signaled that the nation would be open for dialogue. The Saudi Arabian bloc of nations have released six principles for Qatar to abide by for the impasse to end, but Qatar has not responded. Qatar has also filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday to challenge the trade boycott and is seeking remuneration.
The Hajj is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that is held annually. Mecca is considered the holiest city in Islam and there is a mandatory religious call for all Muslim to visit the city at least once during their lifetimes. This applies to Muslims who are financially and bodily capable of undertaking this journey. It is the largest gathering of people in the world.
Initially Saudi Arabia had announced that it was temporarily lifting border restrictions on Qatar to allow for Hajj.
Saudi Arabia manages and controls Mecca and Medina. They are both considered to be the holiest sites for Muslims. Even though Saudi Arabia has not announced that it will ban Qataris from embarking on Hajj, the nation has made it impossible for the nation’s citizens.
According to Qatari Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, it has not recieved the travel logistic and security guarantees from its counterpart in Saudi Arabia. The body is in-charge of organizing the Hajj pilgrimage for Qatari citizens and residents. Thus, the regulatory process for Qatar’s pilgrims has been suspended.
Additionally, the official Qatar News Agency has noted that the region’s religious authorities "did not find any cooperation or positive response from the Ministry of Hajj, which has led to confusion and suspension of the regulatory process for Qatar's pilgrims".
Saudi Arabia, has said that it was Qatar that had banned the latter’s flights from landing. These flights had intended to transport Qatari pilgrims. Qatar has denied these charges. Qatar's civil aviation authority noted that it had referred the Saudi Arabian flight’s request to the ministry of Islamic affairs "in accordance with past practices".
Over 1.4 million Muslims have already arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj. Authorities expect at least two million to make the pilgrimage this year.
Our assessment is that there should be no mixing between political disputes and the natural and human right to perform religious duties. Mecca is not owned by any government. Mecca is for all Muslims. We believe that the Saudi’s behavior might appear as a violation of Islamic values and norms.