Tehran: Iran has suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy places until Saudi religious police end their "appalling behaviour" towards Iranian Shi’ite pilgrims, an official said on Sunday.
"The reason for the suspension is because the way the agents of the Saudi Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have been dealing with our pilgrims," the head of public relations of the Iranian hajj and pilgrimage organisation Abdollah Nassiri said.
"The umra has been suspended and not halted," Nassiri added, referring to the so-called less pilgrimage that is carried out throughout the year unlike the annual hajj which was held most recently late last year.
"Our move is not political, it is religious," he said.
"Since we are Shi’ites, we have different rituals, like reciting the special pilgrimage prayers in Mecca and Medina mosques, which has resulted in their agents rudely confronting our pilgrims and we want this to be corrected and stopped."
Saudi Arabia is governed according to an ultra-strict version of Sunni Islam and relies on the religious police of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of
Vice to enforce such rules.
Iranian pilgrims all travel to the Muslim holy places under the auspices of the hajj and pilgrimage organisation so its decision effectively suspends their travel until further notice.
First Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010, 16:39