Saudi Arabia’s minister of Islamic affairs praised Israel for not stopping its Muslim population from participating in the five-day pilgrimage to Mecca, also known as the Hajj.

All Muslims who are physically and financially able must perform the trip at least once in their lifetimes, but some Muslim-majority countries apparently aren’t allowing their citizens to partake in the annual event, according to i24 News. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­

“The state of Israel, from what we know of it, has not banned Muslim pilgrims from coming to the Kingdom to take part in their religious obligation. However, one of the countries, as we know or have been told, have banned pilgrims from traveling,” Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said.

From its Arabic account, Israel responded, “Thank God, Israel facilitated for more than 4,000 Muslim citizens to head to the holy places to complete the Hajj pilgrimage.”

It’s not immediately clear which Muslim-majority country Al-Sheikh might have been referring to, but it’s likely he was referencing Qatar, whose leaders said last week its citizens were not permitted to register for the Hajj. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­

“There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for Hajj,” a government official told Reuters. “Registration of pilgrims from the State of Qatar remains closed, and residents of Qatar cannot be granted visas as there are no diplomatic missions.”

For their part, leaders in Saudi Arabia have denied Qatari claims, saying the country’s citizens are welcome to participate in the Muslim pilgrimage.

The diplomatic dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has been brewing for more than a year. Earlier this summer, Saudi Arabia — the only country sharing a border with Qatar — vowed to physically separate itself from the small peninsula country.

The artificial canal would be called the “Salwa Channel” and would stretch across the 38-mile border. Saudis hope the project will be completed within one year.  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia reached a fever pitch last summer, when Saudi Arabia started boycotting Qatar, citing the small nation’s support of terrorist organizations and its questionable ties to Iran.

Written by: Tré Goins-Phillips
Feature image: Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images
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