Islamists on social media expressed discontent following Saudi Arabia’s facilitation of Union Minister Smriti Irani’s visit to Madinah, a significant city for Islam, where she explored the surroundings of the Quba mosque—the first mosque of Islam. While the visit garnered praise for its historic nature and how Irani presented Bharat there, it also sparked criticism among certain factions online.
A delegation led by Union Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs Smriti Irani, accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri V. Muraleedharan, made a ‘historic’ visit to Madinah during their official trip to Saudi Arabia. This event followed the formal signing of the Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024, designating New Delhi with a quota of 175,025 pilgrims for the upcoming annual Haj pilgrimage.
The delegation, as outlined in an official press release, embarked on a tour of the perimeter of the Prophet’s Mosque (Al Masjid Al Nabwi) in the Markazia area of Madinah. The itinerary included visits to historic sites such as the mountain of Uhud and the Quba Mosque. The Quba Mosque holds special significance as the first mosque of Islam, while the Uhud Mountain is the final resting place for many early Islamic martyrs.
Union Minister Smriti Irani took to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to share insights about her visit. In a tweet, she stated, “Undertook a historic journey to Madinah today, one of Islam’s holiest cities included a visit to the periphery of the revered Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid Al Nabwi, the mountain of Uhud, and periphery of the Quba Mosque – the first Mosque of Islam.” The post, however, triggered a meltdown among certain Islamists on social media, highlighting the complexities of such visits in the context of religious sentiments and global diplomacy.
Undertook a historic journey to Madinah today, one of Islam’s holiest cities included a visit to the periphery of the revered Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid Al Nabwi, the mountain of Uhud, and periphery of the Quba Mosque – the first Mosque of Islam. The significance of the visit to… pic.twitter.com/WgbUJeJTLv
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) January 8, 2024
The criticism surged shortly after Irani’s visit, as outraged Islamists voiced their concerns about the presence of a Hindu woman near one of Islam’s holiest shrines.
Expressing disdain, one Islamist tweeted, “Why are you allowing mushrikeen till the periphery of our sanctuary?” The term “Mushrik” refers to individuals who practice Shirk, which is considered idolatry or polytheism in Islam. Islamic theology emphasises the concept of Tawhid, absolute oneness of Allah, and views those who believe in other gods as ‘kafir’ or idol-worshippers, deserving strict punishment, including death.
.@KingSalman why don’t you leave the haramain alone?
You can progress as a much as you want in the rest of KSA.
Makkah mukarramah & Madina Munawwarah are the most sacred places for the followers of رسول الله ﷺ
Why are you allowing mushrikeen till the periphery of our sanctuary?
— تاب سخن (@taab_e_sukhan) January 8, 2024
Another user, expressing strong condemnation, posted, “Oh followers of shaytan, you made a grave mistake by letting filthy najs mushrik in the land of our Beloved master messenger of the Lord of Heavens and earth,” and threatened, “Allah will provide justice for this treachery.”
Oh followers of shaytan you made a grave mistake by letting filthy najs mushrik in the land of our Beloved master messenger of the Lord of Heavens and earth ﷺ. Only Allah swt will provide you justice for this treachery. We left this matter to most Just swt
— Hassan (@H_khxy) January 8, 2024
A vocal Muslim extremist questioned the presence of a Hindu politician from India in Medina, stating, “The Prophet explicitly forbade the presence of idol worshippers in the Hejaz region.”
What is a Hindu politician from India doing in Medina? Let alone a BJP politician which is known for promoting Hindutva ideology?
The Prophet ﷺ explicitly forbade the presence of idol worshippers in the Hejaz region.
The Two Holy Cities are for Muslims alone. No one else. https://t.co/DPWBYNnEhu
— OJ Smoke (@OJ_Smoke_) January 8, 2024
Following a historic visit to Madinah by Union Minister Smriti Irani, where the Saudi Arabian government welcomed a Hindu woman adorned in traditional attire without a hijab, social media platforms, including X, witnessed widespread praise for the gesture and diplomatic outreach.
Renowned author Shefali Vaidya expressed her admiration on X, stating, “This is remarkable! @smritiirani in full Indian attire, bindi and all, walking in step with the Saudi sheikhs without wearing a veil. This is a HUGE change.”
Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul shared his thoughts, calling the visit “Historic in every sense,” and commending the presence of two non-Muslim Indian women, including a Kashmiri Hindu IRS Officer @nirupamakotru, without headgear in Madinah. He hailed it as an unthinkable moment, emphasising the positive impact on India-Saudi cultural and strategic bilateral ties.
Historic in every sense. India’s top Minister @smritiirani visits Madinah, one of Islam’s holiest cities in Saudi Arabia. Delegation also comprised of a Kashmiri Hindu IRS Officer @nirupamakotru. Two Non-Muslim Indian women without Headgear in Madinah was truly unthinkable. Kudos… pic.twitter.com/u8M8bCtf5x
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) January 9, 2024
Another verified handle highlighted the historic nature of the visit, stating, “A historic moment for India-Saudi Arabia relations as Union Minister @smritiirani and Minister of State @VMBJP become the first non-Muslim delegation to visit Madinah. A testament to the exceptional bond between our nations.”
🇮🇳🤝🇸🇦 A historic moment for India-Saudi Arabia relations as Union Minister @smritiirani and Minister of State @VMBJP become the first non-Muslim delegation to visit Madinah. A testament to the exceptional bond between our nations.
— THE SQUADRON (@THE_SQUADR0N) January 9, 2024
A verified user on X applauded Smriti Irani’s bold move, noting, “Non-Muslims were not allowed in Medina. #SmritiIrani ji walked there today flaunting her beautiful Saree and Bindi. Jhukti hai duniya jhukane waala chahiye” — emphasising the profound significance of the moment in breaking cultural barriers and fostering diplomatic relations.
Non Muslims were not allowed in Medina.#SmritiIrani ji walked there today flaunting her beautiful Saree and Bindi .
Jhukti hai duniya jhukane waala chahiye pic.twitter.com/QDuvXSkJFD
— Amitabh Chaudhary (@MithilaWaala) January 9, 2024
Ironically, the criticism arose despite Irani staying only in the periphery of the Prophet’s mosque and not entering it. The incident highlights the inconsistency of some Islamists who, while protesting against non-Muslims near their places of worship, label similar measures by non-Muslims as ‘Islamophobia.’ The incident raises questions about the interpretation of religious tolerance in the context of global diversity and diplomatic relations.