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Saudi strikes back: Top cleric says Iranians 'not Muslims'

After Iran's scathing attack, Saudi Grand Mufti says Iran are descendents of 'fire worshippers' as Crown Prince attends military parade in Mecca
Saudi Arabia's elite Special Emergency Forces perform during a military parade in Mecca on 6 September 2016 (Photo from Mecca region's official Twitter account @makkahregion)

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh fired back at Iran on Tuesday in a growing war of words over the Hajj pilgrimage, saying Iranians were “not Muslims," as the country's armed forces put on a show of force with a military parade.

In comments made to Saudi media, Sheikh said that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian government were “enemies of Islam and doctrine, and descendants of the majoos,” using the pejorative term for pre-Islamic Iranians who believed in fire worship.

“You must understand that they are not Muslims - they are descendants of the majoos," he said, using a derogatory term for pre-Islamic Iranians. "Their enmity with Muslims is old, especially with Sunnis,” he told the Mecca daily newspaper.

“All those who try to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s services to the Hajj, pilgrims and those going to the two Holy Mosques will not achieve their goal," he continued. "This is because all Muslims trust what the government of this country is doing to serve the two Holy Mosques in building and expansion.”

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh leads a prayer on 6 February, 2008 (AFP)

Last year, 60,000 Iranian pilgrims took part in the Hajj pilgrimage, but 464 were killed in a deadly stampede that killed 2,300 foreign pilgrims in total. This year, for the first time in three decades, Iran will not send pilgrims to Mecca after on Monday accusing the Saudi authorities of "murdering" injured pilgrims during the stampede.

“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarise themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless and materialistic nature,” Iran's Khamenei said in a statement published on his website yesterday.

“Because of these rulers’ oppressive behaviour towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of Hajj,” he continued.

"Saudi rulers... are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US and on fulfilling their demands," he said, adding that the Saudi family were “small and puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardising the interests of the Great Satan [United States].”

The two regional powerhouses are at loggerheads in every conflict currently being waged in the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq and Yemen. After Saudi authorities executed a prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, last January, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Diplomatic relations were then cut off altogether.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads a prayer on 6 July, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER'S WEBSITE)

Show of force

The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Wednesday said that Khamenei's remarks of last year's Hajj were "inappropriate and offensive" and "a clear incitement and a desperate attempt to politicise" the Hajj.

As the Grand Mufti entered the fray on Tuesday, Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef attended a military parade in Mecca put on by the elite Special Emergency Forces unit. Saudi security officials stressed at the event that they were well prepared to safeguard the security of pilgrims.

Translated title: #Military_Parade_By_Hajj_Security_Forces_1437 / 2016 #God is great, My nation we are all with you against sedition and racism

On the topic of Iran, bin Nayef was quoted by the Saudi press agency as saying: “The Iranian authorities are the ones who are not interested in sending Iranian pilgrims for reasons made by Iranians themselves in their quest to politicise the Hajj and turn it into slogans that violate the teachings of Islam and damages the security of the Hajj and pilgrims.”

Saudi Arabia maintains that Iranian pilgrims travelling from countries outside Iran are still welcome to perform the Islamic pilgrimage.

Translation: #Crown_Prince: The Kingdom will not allow anything to take place that violates the observance of Hajj, damages security or affects the safety of pilgrims from Iran and outside Iran 

Saudi social media was soon set ablaze by the hashtag #Military_Parade_By_Hajj_Security_Forces_1437, using the Islamic calendar’s equivalent of the year 2016.

Some shared edited videos of the military parade:

Others tweeted comments of support:

Translation: #Our_soldiers_serve_the_Hajj, #Military_Parade_By_Hajj_Security_Forces_1437 It is something every Saudi, Arab, and Muslim can be proud of to be honest. May God protect them and protect them from evil

The Mecca region’s official Twitter account joined in on the hashtag, publishing its own videos and pictures:

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