Saudi Arabia has been detaining individuals at holy sites in Mecca and Medina for supporting Palestine and praying for the Gaza Strip, which has been under brutal Israeli assaults since October 7.
Islah Abdur-Rahman, a British actor and presenter, said that Saudi police had detained him while he was on a religious pilgrimage with his family in the holy city of Mecca late last month for wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh, Middle East Eye reported on Thursday.
“I was stopped by four soldiers for wearing a white keffiyeh around my head and a Palestinian-colored tasbih [rosary beads] around my wrist,” he said.
Israel launched the war on Gaza on October 7 after the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas waged the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the Israeli regime’s decades-long suppression and devastation against Palestinians.
According to the Gaza-based health ministry, at least 12,000 Palestinians, including over 5,000 children, have been killed and more than 29,200 others injured in the Israeli strikes.
“I was escorted to an off-site location where they detained people for possible crimes or offenses. Once I was detained, there were other soldiers who interrogated me and asked me about my nationality, why I’m here, where I traveled from, how long I’m here for,” Abdur-Rahman recalled.
He also said that the focus of the soldiers was clearly on his keffiyeh, as they repeatedly mentioned “Palestinian keffiyeh” while examining it. “It was evident that the scarf was the issue,” he said.
He was eventually released after signing a release form, giving his fingerprints, and handing in the keffiyeh. He was warned against wearing the keffiyeh again as he was told that it was not allowed” to wear it there.
Abdur-Rahman went on to say that initially he was scared but “then, my fear turned into heartbreak… the heartbreak got worse when I realized that this is just an ounce of what Palestinians must go through.”
On November 14, it was reported that two individuals, an Algerian and a Turkish sheikh, were also detained by Saudi police a few days earlier after they reportedly publicly prayed for Gaza and Palestine during their pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
The Algerian sheikh was detained for six hours in the holy city of Medina for praying for the people of Palestine at the Prophet’s Mosque.
“I consider it an honor that I was detained in the city of the messenger of Allah. Is it a crime to pray for the weak, and the oppressed, as hospitals and mosques are destroyed? Little children were killed and slaughtered. Doesn’t this require us to pray? We pray in the most honorable places. Is it dangerous?” he asked.
The Turkish sheikh, Mustafa Evi, was detained at Mecca while he was praying for Gaza and Palestine.
“They arrested me now in Mecca because of my mention of the words Gaza and Palestine,” he said in a video.