Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group has banned members from performing the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia this year, a source close to the movement said.
“Hezbollah has recently issued an internal decree to ban its leaders and members from going to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year,” the source, who preferred to remain unnamed because he was unauthorized to speak to media, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
He said the ban was in line with a decision by Iran to bar its citizens from performing Hajj this year due to differences with Saudi Arabia.
According to the source, Hezbollah has threatened to expel members, who disobey the ban.
The source, however, did not rule out that the ban was put in place due to security reasons.
Shiite Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia — long considered regional arch-foes — have been in a row over the annual Hajj.
Earlier this week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused Riyadh of “murdering” Iranian pilgrims during last year’s Hajj stampede, during which hundreds of pilgrims were killed.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, accused Tehran of preventing Iranian pilgrims from performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage and “politicizing” the ritual.
In April, Riyadh and Tehran failed to agree on the parameters governing the Hajj pilgrimage, which all Muslims are obliged to perform at least once in their lives.
The dispute escalated after Tehran demanded that Iranian pilgrims be allowed to perform certain practices — forbidden by the Saudi authorities — during the Hajj.
The Saudi authorities, for their part, say such practices, which include gatherings of Shiite worshipers during the Hajj ritual, “hinder the movement of other pilgrims”.
The practices, however, were deemed political and religious obligations by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi Arabia severed official ties with Iran early this year after its diplomatic missions in the Iranian cities of Tehran and Mashhad were attacked by protesters following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by the Saudi authorities.