Iran decries conduct of Saudi morality police

Iran has objected to the government of Saudi Arabia over the mistreatment of Iranian pilgrims at the hands of the country's 'morality police', reported PressTV.

"The inappropriate behavior of Saudi morality forces towards Iranian pilgrims has increased," said Hassan Saqaie, the head of Iran's pilgrimage office in Saudi Arabia, in an official statement sent to relevant Saudi authorities on Wednesday.

"Not only do they limit the religious activities of clerics, but they make false accusations against pilgrims and ask them to sign papers stating that they would not repeat the so called offenses," he added.

Saqaei said the behavior of the morality police undermines Saudi Arabia's stance in the Muslim world and contradicts with both countries' desire to remain committed to a policy of avoiding tensions.

The Iranian official called on the Saudi government to 'try to prevent a recurrence of such behavior' and 'ask its morality police to wear clear identification cards'.

Reports of the Saudi morality force's mistreatment of Shia pilgrims, particularly Iranians, increased in 2007 when Saudi police started fingerprinting Iranian citizens who entered the country for the Hajj rituals.

According to international laws, authorities can only fingerprint travelers suspected of being criminals or terrorists.

Earlier this year, a senior Iranian cleric threatened to ban the minor pilgrimage to Mecca if the extremist Wahhabis continue with their 'vile acts'.

"If extremist Wahhabis continue their shameful behavior, we will have no choice but to ban Umrah [minor pilgrimage]," said Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi.

Umrah, also known as the minor pilgrimage, is highly recommended but non-compulsory pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year.

Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi's warning came after Saudi security forces and religious police attacked a group of Shia female pilgrims from eastern Saudi Arabia in Medina, killing three of them and wounding several others.

Later in May, Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization once again expressed strong protest against the fingerprinting of Iranian female pilgrims by Saudi airport officers.

In a specially disturbing case, an Iranian cleric, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Garmab-Dashti, was sentenced by a Saudi court to three-month imprisonment and 75 lashes, after a Wahabi man accused him of 'spiting on the grave' of the first Caliph.

According to Garmab-Dashti, the court had refused to review video footage on the surveillance camera on the premises, arguing that the testimony of the Arab witness would suffice.

A small minority in the Islamic world, Wahhabis, enjoy political power in Saudi Arabia. They are believed to be extremely intolerant of other interpretations of Islam and responsible for the violation of women's rights in the country.

Wahhabi clerics are known for preventing women from driving, voting, and even visiting graves.

Based on reports by human rights groups, the Saudi government systematically suppresses the Kingdom's Shia minority that lives in the eastern, oil-rich regions of the country, since Wahhabis consider Shia as a heretical fait.

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