Saudi prince says Saudi Arabia won’t share management of Haj

Following latest stampede that killed 769 people in this year’s Haj, Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal confirmes kingdom will not share managerial roles with any other Muslim state

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An aerial view of the Grand Mosque is seen on the second day of Eid al-Adha, during the annual haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca September 25, 2015.

Saudi Arabian Prince Turki al Faisal said the kingdom will not share responsibility of the sacred annual pilgrimage, the Haj, with any other Muslim country.

The prince added that "it is a matter of sovereignty and privilege.”

Prince al Faisal spoke to the AP on Monday, commenting on the large wave of criticism towering over the kingdom after the tragic incident.

“The kingdom over the years, having gotten over the awful times when pilgrims couldn’t guarantee their travels to the Haj in the old days and all the other factors of disease and crowds and housing and so on, we’ll not give up that privilege or that distinction of being the servants of the two holy places,” Prince al Faisal said.

“The people of Mecca are the ones who know best the territory of Mecca and you can’t take that away from them” added the prince.

Saudi Arabian Prince Turki al Faisal speaks during a press conference November 15, 2011 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

This year’s stampede death toll varies from one source to another, according to the AP count, over 1,400 people died, while the Saudi government puts the number at 769.

Majority of the victims were Iranian, with a death toll of 465, next in line comes Egypt, with a death toll of 181. Iran - the kingdom’s traditional rival - has repeatedly accused them of mismanagement and called for an independent body to oversee the Haj, or a managerial role in the process.

Prince al Faisal is currently chairman of the Riyadh-based King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, named after his late father, and he is the most senior Saudi official to address the Iranian accusations publicly.

Saudi Arabian king Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s full title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”, thus framing the importance of managing Haj to Saudi Arabia’s royal family and in Saudi culture in general.

Prince al Faisal used to be the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Ireland and the US. His brother, Prince Khalid al Faisal is currently the governor of Mecca.

“I think they’re trying to make political capital out of this, which is unfortunate,” al Faisal said, adding that “human suffering should not be a tool for political shenanigans.”

“It’s a recurring record that is played over and over again by Iranian leaders.”

This year saw over 2 million Muslim worshippers flowing into Saudi Arabia for just a few days to perform the holy act of Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in his or her lifetime, the fifth of the Pillars of Islam.

TRTWorld and agencies