A Saudi man who allegedly helped a Jewish Israeli journalist enter the holy city of Mecca has been arrested, police in the kingdom have said, after a backlash on social media.
The journalist, Gil Tamary of Israel’s Channel 13, posted on Twitter a video of himself on Monday sneaking into Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in defiance of a ban on non-Muslims.
Mecca regional police have “referred a citizen” to prosecutors for alleged complicity in “transferring and facilitating the entry of a (non-Muslim) journalist”, a police spokesperson said in comments reported by the official Saudi Press Agency late on Friday.
SPA did not name Tamary but said he is an American citizen, implying he had entered the country using his American passport since the kingdom has no formal ties with Israel.
His case has also been referred to prosecutors “to take the necessary procedures against him in accordance with the applied laws”, despite the Israeli national no longer being in the kingdom.
While Muslims of any nationality and background can enter Mecca, non-Muslims are not permitted because a very specific code of conduct and behaviour is required of all people within its boundaries, including certain forms of modesty, ritual cleansing and prayers.
In his roughly 10-minute clip, Tamary visits Mount Arafat, where robed Muslim pilgrims gather to pray during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage each year.
He makes clear he knows that what he is doing is outlawed but says he wanted to showcase “a place that is so important to our Muslim brothers and sisters”.
Tamary left the mount after he said the religious police began asking him questions to make sure he was a Muslim.
The public backlash over Tamary’s visit was immediate on social media, with Muslims and Saudis expressing their anger over his deception and apparent disregard for the sanctity of the site.