Saudi Arabian police in Mecca have arrested a citizen on suspicion of helping an Israeli journalist enter Muslim sacred places in the holy city.
Mecca’s police said in a statement on Friday that a Saudi citizen was “complicit” in helping the visit of a “non-Muslim” journalist, who carries an American passport, to the city.
In contravention of Saudi laws, the suspect faces prosecution after driving the Israeli journalist through a “Muslim only” route into Mecca.
“All those coming to the Kingdom must respect the laws and abide by their requirements, especially with regard to the two holy mosques and holy sites, and that any violation of this kind
is considered a crime that will not be tolerated and penalties will be applied to its perpetrators based on the relevant regulations,” the police said.
On Monday, Israel’s Channel 13 broadcast a report by its world news editor and journalist Gil Tamari driving around the holy city of Mecca and pointing out significant Muslim sights and landmarks.
Tamari drove past the arched Mecca Gate, which marks the entrance to the city and the point at which non-Muslims are prohibited from entering, and the Grand Mosque, the most important site in Islam.
He also took a selfie on Mount Arafat – the hill on the outskirts of Mecca where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon and a site where Muslims gather during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
There is a total ban on non-Muslims entering Mecca and parts of the holy city of Medina. Attempting to enter can result in penalties, including fines or deportation.
Channel 13 later issued an apology “if anyone was offended” but stood by its report after it was criticised in Saudi Arabia and by some in Israel.
“The visit of our world news editor Gil Tamari to Mecca is an important journalistic accomplishment, which was not meant to offend Muslims,” it said in a statement.
“We apologise if anyone was offended. To clarify: journalistic curiosity is the very soul of the journalist profession. The principles of journalism are rooted in reaching any location and documenting events firsthand.
“Tamari also posted an apology on Twitter, saying the network had had no intention of offending Muslims. (MEE)