(CNSNews.com) – As the annual hajj rituals got underway in Mecca on Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a rallying call to Muslim pilgrims: “Ask Allah to cut the hands of the U.S. and other arrogant powers.”
Khamenei said in a hajj message that the pilgrimage to Islam’s most revered site was a time of Muslim solidarity.
“And this is the opposite of what the enemies of Islam aspire to do: inciting the Muslims to fight against each other at all times and, especially, during the present time,” he said.
“Look at the behavior of the arrogant and criminal U.S. today,” Khamenei continued. “Its essential policy against Islam and the Muslims is warmongering.”
The U.S. aim, he said, is to incite Muslims to kill fellow Muslims.
“Muslims should be aware and nullify this satanic policy,” he said, adding that the hajj represents the repudiation of “pagans and arrogant powers.”
Khamenei concluded his message by encouraging Muslims to pray for “oppressed” Muslims – and against America.
“Do not forget to pray for the Islamic Ummah [the global Muslim community], the oppressed people in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Pakistan, Kashmir and Myanmar and other parts of the world,” he said.
‘Ask Allah to cut the hands of the U.S. and other arrogant powers, and their supporters.”
This year's hajj comes at a time of heightened tensions between the regime in Tehran and the U.S., after President Trump last May exited the Iran nuclear deal and launched a campaign of pressure aimed at changing Iran’s behavior across the region. Iran's relationship with Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, is also marked by deep hostility.
The hajj sees large numbers of Muslims from around the world, known as “guests of Allah,” travel to Mecca, location of the Grand Mosque, to comply with one of the five pillars of Islam. This year almost two million have made the journey.
Iran leads the Shi’ite world – other Shi’ite-majority countries are Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan – while its regional rival, Saudi Arabia, is the standard bearer of Sunni Islam.
Shi’ites comprise just 10-15 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. The sectarian divide originated from a succession dispute after the death of Mohammed in the seventh century.