Rage over Saudi ban on Mecca pilgrimage for Moroccan women

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Rage, incomprehension, accusations… Moroccan and foreign bloggers have multiplied attacks against Saudi Arabia after their decision, in early August, to ban young Moroccan women from going to Mecca for the Umrah (a lesser pilgrimage). According to Saudi authorities, these women are seeking Saudi visas in order to engage in illegal prostitution whilst in the holy land.

Bloggers around the world, especially in Europe and Africa, have criticized the attitude of Saudi Arabian authorities whilst demanding that they respect the dignity of Moroccan women.

The outcry comes after Saudi Arabia’s refusal to issue visas to young Moroccan women to visit Islam’s holy land citing prostitution. A reason that has not only infuriated many, but also led to radical suggestions that questions Saudi Arabia’s fairness.

Big Brother wrote on his blog: “If it were up to me, I would forbid all departures to Mecca… my country would save millions of dollars instead of sending Moroccans to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimages… visas would be imposed on Saudis and then i’ll correct what is to be corrected in my country.”

Sudanese journalist Nesrine Malik believes that Saudi Arabia has missed an opportunity to respect its religious obligations towards Muslims. “Saudi Arabia has a duty to facilitate pilgrimages to Mecca for all Muslims worldwide. I would therefore suggest, in order to mitigate the problem and in the spirit of slanderous generalisation, that Saudi men be banned from Morocco, lest they use their tourist visas for “other purposes”, she says.

The sexually frivolous Moroccan

On the Internet as well as in the ranks of the Moroccan parliament, the case has whipped up controversy. The ruling Parti de la justice et du développement (PJD) has vigorously denounced the exclusion of Moroccan women.

In a press release published early August, the group, chaired by Mustapha Ramid, said that Saudi Arabian consular services in Rabat had refused to issue visas to young Moroccan women, including those accompanied by their parents.

“Some families found themselves excluded by the Saudi authorities who are bent on not responding to visa applications made by their daughters, sisters or granddaughters, despite the consistency of their applications”, the statement read.

According to some families, the explanation given by the consular services to justify the refusal was “that the candidates are young and they want to go on this trip for ‘other purposes’ besides the Umrah.”

Without spelling it out, the Saudi authorities are trying to draw attention to Morrocan women and illegal prostitution in the Islamic holy land. Perceived as sexually frivolous girls in Saudi Arabia, Moroccan women are subject to heavy criticisms.

And the PJD considers this as a false image and “an affront to the dignity of women”.

“While are well aware that some women may act inappropriately, this can not be extended to all Moroccans. Some young Saudi nationals have obscene behaviors in Morocco, and yet no one reprimands their right of movement because we know that they are a minority. They are far from representing the Saudi youth who we respect,” said Mustapha Ramid.

The ruling party has since called on the Moroccan authorities to intervene to “stop such abuse in the treatment of Moroccan women and to restore dignity to families who have been affected by this exclusion.”

Meanwhile, the Saudi Embassy in Rabat has rejected accusations of decisions based on “intentions” and also denied any discriminatory visa practices.

According to an article published by Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has indicated that its visa formalities are the same for all nationals, Moroccans or not.

Last month, a new Kuwaiti cartoon provoked the ire of Moroccans who had been represented again as prostitutes and husbands snatchers.

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