Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov made an official visit to Saudi Arabia, and on August 14 joined Saudi King Abdullah II in the traditional ceremony of the washing of the Kaaba in Mecca. Interfax reported on August 15 that Kadyrov first had a meeting with King Abdullah at the royal palace in Mecca and then went with the king to the Masjid al-Haram Mosque, where the Kaaba is located. According to the news agency, “hundreds of thousands of pilgrims saluted the Saudi monarch and the Chechen president” and all the members of the delegation accompanying Kadyrov were given permission to visit the Kaaba at his request. Kadyrov’s delegation included members of his government and Chechen mufti Sultan Mirzaev.
After the symbolic washing of the Kaaba, Kadyrov prayed at the al-Haram Mosque until dawn on August 15, Interfax reported. “In the morning he went to Jeddah to meet with the president of the Islamic Development Bank. King Abdullah gave the head of Chechnya some gifts related to Islamic shrines, which included a model of the Kaaba door made of gold and a fragment of the so-called Kiswa, a piece of the Kaaba covering bearing Koranic lines embroidered in gold thread,” the news agency reported. Interfax quoted Ziyad Sabsabi, Chechnya’s representative to the Russian president, who was part of Kadyrov’s delegation, as saying that “this part of the Kiswa is intended only as a gift to high-ranking representatives of Islamic states.” Kommersant noted on August 15 that the only other Muslim from the former Soviet Union to have participated in the washing of the Kaaba is Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s president.
On August 12, the start of Kadyrov’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Kavkazky Uzel quoted him as saying: “I intend to tell the Saudi king about the positive changes that are happening in the Chechen Republic, as well as about the situation in this region as a whole.” During his meeting with King Abdullah, Kadyrov conveyed a message from President Vladimir Putin. Citing the Kremlin’s press service, RIA Novosti on August 15 quoted Putin as saying in his message to the Saudi monarch: “Russia and Saudi Arabia are taking steps to improve the situation in the Middle East, and are actively working in the interests of settling crises and enhancing security and stability in the region.” According to RIA Novosti, Putin also thanked Abdullah “for welcoming Ramzan Kadyrov as a guest of the kingdom’s government,” adding, “I regard this as yet another confirmation of the friendly nature of Russian-Saudi relations.”
Commenting on Kadyrov’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the separatist Kavkaz-Center website wrote on August 15 that while the Russian media declared that only “the honored and respected of the Muslim world” are allowed to take part in the washing of the Kaaba, the Saudi government had opened the doors of the Kaaba to “the head of the Tashkent regime and the mass murderer of Muslims Islam Karimov, who never in his life had prayed and did not even know how to do it.” The separatist website also noted that while Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabi Islam, Russia went to war “against the Chechen state and began to systematically persecute Muslims in all of the North Caucasus” under the pretext of “the fight against Wahhabism.” The main fighter against “Wahhabism” was Akhmad Kadyrov, and later his son, Ramzan, Kavkaz-Center wrote. Yet the Saudi regime is not offended by Moscow’s “fight against Wahhabism,” the website noted.
Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov said in a statement posted on Kavkaz-Center on August 15 that giving “the dirty murtad [traitor to Islam] and vile dog of the infidels Ramzan Kadyrov” access to the Kaaba was a “defilement of the Kaaba” and an “insult to the House of Allah, His religion and all the Islamic Ummah, the Muslims of the Caucasus and the Caucasian mujahideen, who are fighting Jihad against the aggression of the Russian kaffirs [unbelievers] and their stooges from among the hypocrites and apostates.” Umarov added: “Admitting the murtad Kadyrov to the Kaaba is also a direct insult to the Chechen people, who lost 255,000 peaceful Muslims, among them 42,000 children, as a result of the Russian aggression and the treachery of the apostates.”