Friday, July 24, 2009

New restrictions on Haj pilgrimage


For Muslims around the world, the Haj pilgrimage is one of the primary duties and one which is very close to their heart. This pilgrimage has to be done by Muslims at least once in a life time by those who can afford it. People plan for months, if not years together, to make this trip.
Handling such a large number of pilgrims pouring in from all parts of the globe is a logistical nightmare for the authorities. Despite extensive arrangements, major accidents have occured in the past, just because of the sheer volume of people converging at one place. This was the reason why a rule is already in place that Muslims currently residing in Saudi Arabia cannot perform Haj if they have already done it within the past 5 years.

On 22nd July, 2009, Health ministers from Arab countries met in Cairo, Egypt, and unanimously agreed to impose certain restrictions with immediate effect. The new restrictions are that pilgrims above 65 years would not be allowed to perform Haj. Also, children below 12 years would not be allowed, as also those with chronic diseases. Also excluded are those with symptoms of the now infamous H1N1 virus or swine flu as it is commonly known. Though the resolution is to be ratified by the respective Governments, it is just a matter of formality before it becomes a rule, because the decision of the Arab ministers has been unanimous.
Statistically, about one third of the pilgrims performing Haj are above 65 years. For those who have been saving for this trip for quite a long time, this news has come as a blow. But more cause of worry is for those who have already paid money and are waiting for the visas to be stamped in their passports.
It is still not clear whether this new rule would be a permanent one or whether this is just for the time being, until the swine flu epidemic across the world comes under control. Meanwhile, this blog would continue to keep track of the latest developments and would keep you posted.

11 comments:

Micper said...

Dear EG,
Thanks for the post, I would like to fwd it via mail to all of my contacts, after getting ur permission.
Regards,
MICPER

Expatguru said...

Sure Micper, go ahead.

NidalM said...

I think its a smart decision by the authorities to restrict Hajj visas. Having gone to Hajj myself a few years ago, I know how easy it is for sickness to spread among pilgrims...

2-3million people in one small area is a nightmare for disease prevention teams...

Anonymous said...

Expat Guru,

thanx for sharing the info. However, I am so much disappointed about the 65 years old people. I personally know many who have been saving pennies all lifetime to be able to make it to Hajj. I presume none has got a right to put age limit on this.

Btw, you have got a very informative blog. I like it. Keep it up. THANKS

Anonymous said...

hi nice blog,and attractive blog.I got a suggestion,it will be helpful to readers if you can add "Online PDF" tool which is there under Gadget directory.
Thanks

Expatguru said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for your encouragement and suggestion. I am in the process of revamping the basic design of this blog and will certainly incorporate your suggestion when I am done with it.

Zakaria said...

The limit on 12 year old and and under is understandable and should be made permanent. However, the limit of 65 year old and above must be for this year only due to the spread of swine flu.

sinderela said...

I am so disappointed to hear about 65 year old restriction. My grandmother has lead a very hard life being a young widow with 7 children, whilst saving pennies for going to hajj. She finally paid her dues to for taking the pilgrimage this year. She is 67. This is devastating for her. I hope they'll rethink the age restriction. Maybe a health check prior to giving visa would be a good decision.

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Micper said...

Courtesy: Times of India, 26-08-2009, Hyd edition.
.
Even a common cold can scuttle your Haj plans

Kounteya Sinha | TNN


New Delhi: Pilgrims suffering from even a common cold or symptoms of seasonal flu will not be allowed to embark on this year’s Haj.
In a shocker, the Saudi Arabia government has informed India’s Haj Committee that pilgrims from all countries wanting to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage will have to produce a certificate from their respective countries, clearly stating that the pilgrim isn’t suffering from even seasonal flu, a common phenomenon at that time of the year.
With the H1N1 swine flu pandemic sweeping through the globe, people belonging to high risk groups like the elderly, young children and the chronically ill have also been advised to avoid the pilgrimage.
The Indian Haj Committee (IHC) has informed the Union health ministry about the new rules specified by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Around three million Muslim pilgrims from over 160 countries head for the holy city of Mecca every year to be part of the world’s biggest religious gathering.
In a meeting on August 19 between the IHC and the Union health ministry, that was chaired by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, a proposal was floated to prepare a prototype of a national flu certificate that will be issued by all states clearing the pilgrims of any symptoms of even seasonal flu.
A ministry task force is also looking at whether all pilgrims can be administered drugs before or during their 42-day pilgrimage which will protect them against flu.
Speaking to TOI from Mumbai, CEO of India’s Haj Committee Mohammad Owais said, “At present, a vaccine is not available against H1N1 swine flu. So the question of vaccinating pilgrims like in the case of meningitis does not arise. In a meeting between the health ministry, state health departments and state Haj committees on August 29, a final decision will be taken on how pilgrims will be certified against seasonal flu and where all will the meningitis vaccine be given to pilgrims. The ministry is also deciding whether the pilgrims will be provided Tamiflu as a precautionary measure.”

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