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Saudi Arabia: Local driver arrested for touring an Israeli journalist through Mecca city, where non-Muslims are not allowed

Jewish journalist Gil Tamari had sneaked into Mecca city without revealing identity to the taxi driver and later published a report of the visit on Israeli news channel 13

On Friday, Saudi Arabia Police arrested a citizen and charged him for driving an Israeli journalist to Mecca which is considered to be Islam’s holiest site and which allows entry only to Muslims. The Police said that by driving the Israeli journalist through the city of Mecca, the accused driver had violated state laws. The accused has also been sent to the public prosecution.

According to the reports, the Mecca Police have referred the citizen to the Public Prosecution for his role in transmitting and fostering the admission of a (non-Muslim) journo who holds US citizenship to the city of mecca in Saudi. The driver allegedly helped the Jewish journalist to pass through a path confined to Muslims only, in straightforward violation of the laws that prohibit non-Muslims from entering Mecca.

It warned those visiting the Kingdom to obey the laws and comply with their demands, particularly about the Two Holy Mosques and holy sites, and that any breach of this kind is treated as a crime that will not be accepted. The Police also stated that the accused will have to face the penalties imposed by the relevant regulations.

The saga began last Sunday when Israeli news channel 13 published a news report written and reported by journalist Gil Tamari claiming that he was the first person to complete a news report in Hebrew on Islam’s holiest site. Tamari confessed at the beginning of his story, which was carried by the channel, that he had visited Mecca without the permission of Saudi authorities.

“This city is restricted to non-Muslims, and it is just not feasible to access it,” he was quoted. He further stated that the guy who drove him there had no idea he was an Israeli-American citizen because he only spoke to him in English. Tamari had gone to Saudi Arabia to cover the visit of US President Joe Biden. During the event, he drove the viewers through the city of Mecca and uploaded photos and videos of his visit, inviting furious reactions from Islamists all over the world.

While Tamari proudly posted the photographs of his visit and called the project a journalistic achievement, the channel also extended support to the journalist. They said that Tamari’s visit was an important journalistic achievement that was not meant to offend Muslims. The channel also apologized in case anyone felt offended. Tamari also apologized and said that his visit to Mecca was not intended to offend Muslims. “The purpose of this entire endeavor was to showcase the importance of Mecca and the beauty of the religion, and in doing so foster more religious tolerance and inclusion”, he tweeted.

He also elaborated his stand on being a journalist and said that ‘inquisitiveness is at the heart and center of journalism, and this type of first-hand journalistic encounter is what separates good journalism from great journalism’. “This founding principle also guided us in this journalistic endeavor and allowed many people to see, for the first time, a place that is so important to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to human history”, he added in the series of tweets.

Journalism is all about pampering and respecting the curiosity about the subject. Journalistic curiosity is the very soul of the media profession and the principles of journalism are rooted in reaching any location and documenting the events firsthand. Journalist Gim Tamari’s visit to the city of Mecca was a journalistic achievement that was not at all meant to offend the Muslims, as claimed by the channel and Tamari himself.

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