02 June 2016
Recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East have shaken Saudi Arabia’s long-standing ideational “pillars” that underpin its domestic and foreign policies. For Muslims in Southeast Asia where Saudi Arabian soft power influence is relatively significant, the developments can create the conditions for a fragmentation of the Sunni Muslim landscape.
Last week, Saudi authorities received Iranian delegates who came to negotiate this year’s Haj arrangement for Iranian pilgrims, in what was the first bilateral dialogue since Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran. The political stand-off between the Middle East’s main Sunni and Shia powers had occurred after Iranian protesters attacked a Saudi embassy in Tehran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January.
Reports indicate that the Iranians pressured the Saudi government to allow a Shiite ritual during the Haj, which includes political protests against the West and the Saudi kingdom. The negotiations reached an impasse after Saudi Arabia rejected Iran’s demand on grounds that such an allowance would disrupt the Haj process, which involves some two million pilgrims from around the world. Iran now has barred its citizens from participating in this year’s Haj.
… Saleena Saleem is an Associate Research Fellow with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 06/06/2016