Trouble surrounding Hajj pilgrimage

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 03 Aug 2017, 19:58:06
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OPINION

Trouble surrounding Hajj pilgrimage

Hajj is one of the main five pillars of Islam. Every pious Muslim intends to perform Hajj, at least, once in his/her lifetime. The religious affairs ministry and relevant others must not make the fulfilment of that pious desire difficult and hassle-ridden, says Shamsul Huq Zahid
The religious affairs ministry does not have much work to do throughout the year. The most important job it does is the management of Hajj pilgrimage every year. Unfortunately, its performance level in that area has not been at all satisfactory. 

There have been allegations galore about the sufferings of pilgrims either due to mismanagement of the ministry concerned or irregularities indulged in by the private Hajj agencies. 

Until last year, complaints were more about the hassles the pilgrims faced during their stay in Saudi Arabia. But what has been happening this year involving the issuance of visa by the Saudi authorities does speak of very high level of inefficiency and carelessness on the part of the religious affairs ministry and private Hajj agencies. 

According to newspaper reports, about 40,000 pilgrims are facing uncertainty over Hajj performance this year because of complexities over issuance of visa. Two types of pilgrims -- the repeat Hajj performers and the new ones --are having the problem. 

The Bangladesh Biman and the Saudi Arabian Airlines have already cancelled a number of Hajj flights for non availability of pilgrims with valid visas. If such cancelation of flights persists, many pilgrims, finally, might not be able to fly to Saudi Arabia for non-availability of Hajj flights. 

This is really an uncertain time for many pilgrims who are eagerly waiting for their passports with valid visas. These pilgrims are not anyway responsible for what is happening with the issuance of visas. 

The problem has surfaced over levying of additional fees on repeat pilgrims and the last moment increase in 'fees for moallems' by over 90 private Hajj agencies. 

The Saudi authorities are asking for additional fee from pilgrims who had performed Hajj once in the past five years. The religious ministry says while preparing 'Hajj packages' they were not aware of such additional fees. The private Hajj agencies say they have taken money for pilgrims in accordance with the government-fixed packages where there was no mention about the additional fees. 

The stances of both parties smack of incompetence and high degree of ignorance. 

The government of Saudi Arabia had approved a new visa structure on August 07 last year. The structure was put into effect on October 02 of that year. It was clearly mentioned in the new structure that anyone performing Hajj pilgrimage for the second time would be charged an additional fee of 2,000 riyals. Bangladesh media also carried the news at that time. Then how could the religious affairs ministry claim ignorance? The private Hajj agencies are also aware of the change. Yet they did not raise the issue with the government in due time. 

The developments do only highlight the serious level of mismanagement on the part of the religious affairs ministry. Pilgrims in the past had also faced hassles while performing Hajj. Allegations of corruption and other irregularities had also surfaced in the past. Every year, quite a large Hajj delegation goes to Saudi Arabia to offer services to the 'ballotee' pilgrims. Even a good number of third and fourth class employees are included in the delegation. But most of the delegation members, it is alleged, serve their own cause better than that of the pilgrims. 

Hajj is one of the main five pillars of Islam. Every pious Muslim intends to perform Hajj, at least, once in his/her lifetime. The religious affairs ministry and relevant others must not make the fulfilment of that pious desire difficult and hassle-ridden.

zahidmar10@gmail.com   
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