The arrival of the Hajj season brings with it a debate amongst the Pakistani community: Ahmadis can't be allowed to go for Hajj. The debate regarding who deserves to be called a Muslim is a complex one, and while it may seem like this debate was restricted only to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti has openly claimed that Iranians are not Muslims. This came as a response to Iran's Supreme Leader's statement accusing the Saudi Government of 'murdering' pilgrims in last year's Hajj stampede.
The Grand Mufti's statement isn't one that should be taken lightly. Amidst all the turmoil that engulfs the Muslim world in the present day, this should be seen as a highly irresponsible statement coming from a person of significance in the Muslim world. Over the years, the Muslim world has witnessed itself spiraling downwards in a number of ways. While other religions have shunned old practices and have become somewhat progressive, Islam seems to have remained backwards. The primary reason behind this is perhaps the fact that Muslims all over the world have been focusing a bit too much on who deserves to be called a true Muslim and who deserves to be shunned from Islam.
The Grand Mufti's statement can be seen to display yet another very interesting aspect of the story. The statement reveals how Saudi Arabia feels threatened by any other member of the Muslim world suggesting the fact that the Holy shrines, in fact, belong to the Muslim community, not the Saudis in particular. Iran's Supreme Leader's statement hinted towards the need of a change of management for the two Holy Mosques – something that very obviously threatened the power hungry Saudi Arabia.
It has become an easy way out for a Muslim feeling threatened by someone to simply declare the person 'the wrong kind' of Muslim. In this case, instead of clarifying the Iranian Supreme Leader's claims, the Grand Mufti simply chose to label an entire nation as 'Non-Muslims'.
There is enough violence, discrimination and bloodshed going on in the Muslim world already. Venom is spewed by members of certain sects against members of other sects. Sectarianism is at its peak. Instead of trying to unify the already disintegrated Muslim community, it seems as if the self-appointed leaders of the Muslim world are trying to create further divides.
This statement from the Grand Mufti can have severe consequences for the Shia community in other parts of the world. I cannot help but fear the outcome that these words will have on the already miserable lives of Shias in Pakistan. In a country where the Shia community has been experiencing target killings and hate crimes, such a statement can trigger a whole new wave of terror against this community. The Grand Mufti's words will be seen by many as a statement directly from the house of God. Opposing to such a statement will, by many, be seen as a blasphemous act.
Muslims from Iran are already barred from performing Hajj this year. If things escalate, it won't come as a surprise if the entire Shia community faces such restrictions in the future. Pakistanis, it seems, will perhaps be the first to welcome any such reforms. It is of paramount importance for Muslim leaders and scholars to condemn this statement issued by the Grand Mufti. Who knows which community will fall prey to the ruling elite of the Islamic world next?