Saudi Arabia’s giant oil and Islamic pilgrimage give Saudi monarchy the chance to punch well above its weight, affording one of the world’s most regressive regimes the chance to exercise an outrageous influence on Islam. Hajj has long been deeply embedded into the politics of the ruling Saudi family with other countries including its neighbors, in part by Riyadh’s own design.
It might seem obvious to you why Saudi Arabia is bad for Islam because the House of Saud controls Mecca, the direction of Muslim prayer and location of the Hajj Pilgrimage, and Medina, where the Prophet Mohammed (ASW) built the first Muslim society, died and is buried. Mecca and Medina belong to the Muslim world and their collective sanicredness. However, Saudi Arabia considers its possession of Mecca and Madinah as a divine right and destiny.
Saudi Arabia receives $18 billion from religious tourism industry each year. Today, Saudi Arabia’s ruling family is the custodian of the holy sites in Makkah and Madinah, and is well known of politicization of the annual Haj pilgrimage. These holy sites (Makkah and Medina) should not be an individual or/and politics of possession for Saudi royal family.
Islam is a very egalitarian religion. As some Muslims joke, “people who dislike organized religion should join Islam” because Islam mastered disorganization. Islam has few hierarchies, and those that exist are not widely shared.
The official Saudi interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, was born in violent revolt against the strong traditions of spirituality embedded in Shi’a and Sunni Islam. Why then does a political regime which represents a tiny slice of Muslims, exports and enforces an ideology that is historically antithetical to Islam’s rich traditions of pluralism, spirituality and cosmopolitanism, allowed to control holy cities like Makkah and Medina?
Why don’t everyday Muslims get a say?