Members of Canada’s Muslim community say recent tensions between Ottawa and Saudi Arabia are affecting some people’s ability to perform what’s seen in the faith as a fundamental religious right.
They say many currently embarking on hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, are anxious about their travel arrangements in light of the simmering spat, which has seen the country’s state airline cancel flights to and from Canada.
At least one travel agent also says some would-be pilgrims decided not to follow through on their travel plans after tensions between the two countries flared up unexpectedly earlier this month.
The diplomatic dispute began when Canada’s Ministry of Global Affairs sent a tweet calling for Saudi Arabia to “immediately release” two women’s rights activists currently detained in jail.
The kingdom reacted by severing diplomatic ties, suspending future trade, recalling students from Canadian schools and cancelling the state airline’s operations in Canada.
People in contact with hajj participants say the move involving the airline has complicated return travel plans for many, and add that they are anticipating other post-pilgrimage issues.