Hajj stampede: Saudi Arabia's religious leader says authorities not at fault because 'fate and destiny are inevitable'

The Grand Mufti's comments during a meeting with the crown prince were reported by state media

 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic cleric has claimed that the stampede that killed more than 700 Hajj pilgrims was beyond human control.

The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, told the country’s crown prince that “fate and destiny are inevitable” in a meeting reported on by media.

His intervention came as criticism continued to be directed at Saudi Arabian authorities for their management of the huge crowds flowing through Mina, outside the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi-grand-mufti.jpg
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti said authorities could not be blamed for the Hajj stampede

Survivors of Thursday’s disaster claimed roads were closed, possibly for a royal convoy, forcing two columns of thousands of people to clash on Street 204.

Iran has been particularly outspoken in condemning its rival, blaming the Saudi government for “incompetence” and “mismanagement” of the two million Hajj pilgrims arriving each year.

But in a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the country’s deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, the Grand Mufti said authorities were not at fault.

Hajj stampede: Review ordered

The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported that the religious leader said “many envy” the country and told the prince that “Saudi leaders carried out their duties fully”.

“You are not responsible for what happened because you exerted beneficial reasons in your hands and your ability,” the Grand Mufti was quoted as saying. 

“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable.”

The press agency has also carried statements condemning “irresponsible remarks” made about the causes of the stampede and claiming criticism was “aimed at offending the kingdom and its leaders”.

MINA-REUTERS.jpg
A man weeps after getting the news of his family members, killed in the stampede. Saudi authorities have been criticised for their handling of the tragedy

The disaster was the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years, since another stampede killed more than 1,400 pilgrims in Mecca.

King Salman has ordered a safety review and no serious disruption has been reported at the Hajj, which is in its final day.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has urged Saudi leaders to “take responsibility” for Thursday’s deaths and state prosecutors have announced they will seek a trial in international courts for the royal family.

The crush happened when group of devotees had been making their way towards the Jamaraat Bridge, a large structure used by pilgrims for the “stoning of the devil” ritual, while other pilgrims were leaving when the crowds met on Thursday morning.

At least 719 pilgrims were killed and 863 more injured in the ensuing stampede, where survivors described people “climbing over one another just to breathe”.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not yet confirmed whether any of those killed are British, as concerns continue to mount for a number of missing people.

A spokesperson told The Independent that the Government’s “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected, adding: “Staff are working closely with Saudi Arabian authorities checking hospitals and other locations.”

Iran has so far reported the greatest number of deaths among foreign nationals, at least 134, with more than 340 of its citizens still missing.

At least 18 other countries have reported victims and more are still calculating the death toll.