In Pre-Islamic Arabia, Mecca was the business hub of the region and the world. Merchants from different parts of the world would travel freely through the region to trade.Today, Mecca does not just represent an important historical site. For over 14 centuries, Mecca has been an important religious site for Muslims all around the world to practice Islamic pilgrimage (Hajj and Umrah).
Since the announcement of the Qatar blockade from its GCC neighbors, the Saudi ministry of foreign affairs on Twitter said Qatari pilgrims will not be disrespected or affected by the political dispute.
However, my aunt was not allowed to return directly back to Doha as per her Qatar Airways ticket after her pilgrimage. She was told that her ticket had been rendered invalid as Qatar Airways is no longer allowed to fly over or land in Saudi Arabia.
More recently, a Qatari wanted to go on pilgrimage to Mecca through an airport in Oman, but Oman Air told him that they have received instructions not to allow Qatari citizens to fly to Jeddah (the nearest airport to Mecca). This was heartbreaking to many Qataris and Muslims around the world. It was a disaster.
As Muslims, we should make traveling to Mecca as easy as possible as it is a spiritual journey. However, the Saudi government has taken advantage of their guardianship of Mecca to fulfill their political agenda against Qatar.
Having said that, this is not the first time Saudi Arabia has restricted muslims from certain countries from entering Mecca. The numbers for Hajj pilgrims has been manipulated many times to put pressure on many countries that do not adhere to the Saudi foreign policy.
Religion should never be used as a political tool in disrupting spiritual journeys of anyone. I truly hope the crisis will be resolved sooner rather than later and allow Qataris to move freely to Mecca.
If our religious practices keep getting in the way of political conflict, this will escalate to a division of nations that have one faith, one language and one God.