Saudi Arabia’s continued violation of Qatar residents’ right to freedom of worship and religious practices has drawn censure in the light of a recent case where a group of Qataris was prevented from performing Umrah.
According to local Arabic daily Arrayah, Saudi authorities recently deported the group of 20 Qatari nationals from Jeddah airport while they were on their way to perform Umrah, and returned them to Kuwait.
Misusing religious rites amid the existing political differences by the Saudi authorities is not new, in light of the ongoing siege, air embargo and the closure of the land border with Qatar, Arrayah said in an editorial yesterday.
It said Riyadh continues to take arbitrary measures to violate the right to freedom of worship and religious practices. “These practices included banning Qatari pilgrims from entering Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah despite their arrival in the country and the financial losses.”
Referring to the deportation of the Qatari pilgrims, the daily opined that the action represented a new chapter in the politicisation of religious rituals, “which confirms the insistence of Saudi Arabia on the politicisation of religious rites to serve political interests”.
The paper said such behaviour was not acceptable religiously or morally and should not be tolerated, and demanded the Saudi authorities to explain their position which affirmed using religion as a tool for political pressure. 
“This constitutes  a flagrant violation of international conventions, and is contrary to the teachings of Islam, tolerance and morality.”
Arrayah said: “It is unacceptable and unjustified to deprive 20 Qatari nationals, who travelled from Kuwait to perform Umrah in the Holy Land, and return them to Kuwait after two days in detention at the airport and ill-treatment.”
The daily said Saudi authorities bore full responsibility for the issue of pilgrims from Qatar, and  preventing them from performing the rites involved grave risks and consequences.
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee has the right to internationalise the issue in order to preserve the rights of Qatari pilgrims, the daily added.
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