Why is Indian delegation in Saudi Arabia’s ‘Historic Journey to Medina’ in the spotlight?

Why is Indian delegation in Saudi Arabia's 'Historic Journey to Medina' in the spotlight?

Indian Minister Smriti Irani’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia is currently the center of attention on social media. On this visit, he made a historic trip to Medina, he said, and visited Masjid-i-Nabawi, Jabal-i-Uhud and Masjid-i-Quba, which is considered the first place of worship for Muslims.

He took to X (formerly Twitter) to thank the Saudi authorities for the visit and described it as a reflection of the cultural and spiritual ties between India and Saudi Arabia.

Indian media reported that this is the first time that a non-Muslim delegation has been welcomed in Medina, but this could not be confirmed by independent sources.

According to Visit Saudi, the website of the Saudi Tourism Authority, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina (Masjid al-Nabawi and Masjid al-Haram), but the surrounding historical and cultural sites They are open to everyone.

India’s Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani is on a two-day official visit to Saudi Arabia starting Monday. Her visit is part of a diplomatic mission to further improve India’s relations with Saudi Arabia.

She is accompanied by India’s External Affairs Minister V Muralidharan and a delegation. After landing in Jeddah, the Indian delegation also visited Madinah.

According to Indian media, on this occasion Smriti Irani signed a mutual agreement between India and Saudi Arabia for Hajj 2024. Under this, the number of Indian pilgrims for Hajj 2024 has been set at 175,025.

She interacted with Indian Hajj volunteers, officials and Indian citizens who came for Umrah to provide best facilities to Indian pilgrims.

She has also interacted with Indian nationals residing in Saudi Arabia and the business delegation there.

According to Shakeel Akhtar, the BBC’s Delhi correspondent, economic relations between India and Saudi Arabia are continually growing and Saudi companies are investing heavily in India. More than 2.5 million Indian citizens work in various fields in Saudi Arabia.

Indian media described Smriti Irani’s reception in Medina as extraordinary and historic. India’s official television channel Door Darshan has said in its news that “Central Minister Smriti Irani along with Minister of State for External Affairs V Muralidharan is on a historic visit to Madinah, Saudi Arabia.”

A Doordarshan report stated that ‘this is the first time that a non-Muslim delegation has been received in Madinah. “This reflects the extraordinary relations between India and Saudi Arabia.”

Smriti Irani tweeted photographs from around the Prophet’s Mosque during her stay in Madinah. The Indian delegation also visited Mount Uhud and Masjid Quba.

Indian media has said that Smriti Irani’s visit will help mutual understanding and cooperation in the field of religion and culture.

What places can non-Muslims enter in Saudi Arabia?

The website ‘Visit Saudi’, created to promote tourism in Saudi Arabia, has published a message to tourist visa holders that ‘the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are reserved only for Muslim tourists’, where millions of pilgrims They visit them every year. Muslim pilgrims come.

The website of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia states that the Saudi government has banned non-Muslims from entering religious sites in the central city of Mecca and Medina.

However, according to ‘Visit Saudi’, ‘between the two holy cities there are many places that tell our local culture and history’ and are ‘open to all’.

According to Saudi Arabia’s V Visa website, non-Muslims are invited to visit Medina, but their entry is prohibited to maintain the sanctity of the Prophet’s Mosque and its facilities.

He added that non-Muslims are normally not allowed to enter Saudi religious sites, such as mosques, but may be exempt in certain cases. For example, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the exterior areas of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, but cannot enter its interior. You can check the specific terms and conditions of each place of worship under your plan.

Why is Indian delegation in Saudi Arabia's 'Historic Journey to Medina' in the spotlight?
Why is Indian delegation in Saudi Arabia’s ‘Historic Journey to Medina’ in the spotlight?

According to a May 30, 2023 report from the U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia, on July 23, Mecca police said they had arrested a Saudi who helped an Israeli Jewish reporter enter Mecca. He said it was a “serious violation of laws prohibiting the entry of non-Muslims into Mecca.”

On July 18, Israeli News Channel 13 aired a 10-minute report by a journalist showing him walking through Masjid al-Haram and climbing the Mount of Mercy. According to the American report, “Muslims and citizens

Abdulrahman Al-Sadis, head of the Public Presidency for Holy Mosque Affairs, emphasized respect for Saudi holy sites and said that no violation will be tolerated, regardless of nationality or the nature of their work. don’t be

Social media users commented on the Indian delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

However, as Pakistani user Kiran Butt calls it a new level in diplomatic relations between India and Saudi Arabia, some users opposed his presence in Madinah.

Some criticized her for wearing a sari and not wearing a hijab, while comments were made about why she was allowed to enter Madinah as a non-Muslim.

On the other hand, there are users who have appreciated Smriti Irani on this tour.

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