Saudi Arabia contemplates Haj restrictions over Bersih protests


(Bernama) – Saudi Arabia is contemplating whether to impose restrictions or suspension against Malaysian haj or umrah pilgrims over unlawful Bersih 3.0 assemblies held in Mecca and Medina recently.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said this was conveyed to him by Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Malaysia Fahad A. H. Al-Rashid at a meeting last Friday.

“I have clarified the Malaysian government’s stand against such misbehaviour involving a small group of people. Furthermore, the protests were staged outside the country,” Jamil Khir told reporters after opening an Islamic education teaching seminar here Tuesday.

He said the Saudi government was very sensitive towards any form of unlawful assembly, more so after the Arab Spring, an uprising in several West Asian countries by imposing sanction on certain countries before.

Jamil Khir said the government was very worried about the possibility that the Saudi authorities might take drastic action such as reducing the haj pilgrimage quota and visas approved this year.

Expressing his regret over the Bersih 3.0 protests in Mecca and Medina, he said the people involved not only tarnished the country’s image as Malaysian pilgrims had won praises from the Saudi King for their discipline and became a benchmark for pilgrims from other countries.

On the distribution of a book on marriage by Middle Eastern Study Group that allegedly condone same sex relationship, Jamil said the Islamic Development Department would cooperate with the Home Ministry to get the book banned.

Middle Eastern Study Group is linked to the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank associated with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.