By Rob Morris
Confusion over whether children, the sick or the elderly will be banned from this year's pilgrimage.
Confusion remains over whether the elderly and children are banned from attending this year’s haj following reports that Saudi authorities have yet to approve the decision.
To prevent the spread of swine flu, Arab health ministers in Cairo last week agreed to stop children, people with chronic medical conditions and the elderly from embarking on the holy pilgrimage
But with no official word from Saudi authorities, it is unclear if travel restrictions for certain groups of people will be in place.
While doubts remain, comments made by Hussein Gezairi, the World Health Organisation’s regional director, suggest the ban will stand.
He told news agencies that no one hoping to attend hajj would receive a visa unless health conditions were met.
The Saudi government has reportedly said that any ban must not lead to a drop in any country’s pilgrim quota. Countries are issued hajj Visas for 0.1 percent of their respective populations.
When speaking to reporters following the meeting in Cairo last week, Saudi health minister Abdullah al Rabeeah said the percentage for each country would remain the same. He added “certain rules” had been changed without elaborating.
The annual five-day pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina attracts more than three million people annually, with the hajj industry worth $7bn. Saudi authorities want this year’s pilgrimage, which takes place in November, to attract similar numbers.
On Monday, Saudi reported its first swine flu death, involving a 30-year-old man who was admitted to hospital in Dammam.
Egypt confirmed the disease claimed the life of 25-year-old Samah al Sayyed on July 19 after he visited Saudi Arabia on the lower profile pilgrimage Umrah. Saudi officials have since dismissed the claims, insisting Sayyed, who was admitted to a hospital in Medina, was suffering from heart illness.
Request to concerned do not ban the elders form performing holy hajj. Most of the elders are supposed to perform hajj as their final wish. Maybe there wonâ€™t be another chance in their life. If concerned authority bans due to epidemic disease, no one can perform hajj in coming years. Maybe more epidemic disease can erupt in future. Moreover, Is it possible to ban performing one of the parts of Five Pillars of Islam such like Testimony of Faith, five prayers a day, Giving Zakat, Fasting the Month of Ramadan, The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah, which is an obligation once in a lifetime? Let them fulfill their obligation, Almighty Allah will protect them. Even if they dead, they will be in â€œJannahâ€.
I think it is an unjust move. Precautions may be taken to prevent the spread of swine flu (which in any case is weaker than normal flu), rather than banning the elderly from fulfilling their religious obligations. I hope the Saudi government does not agree to this recommendation fro health ministers which perhaps have been based not on heath concern for pilgrims, but to prevent outflow of foreign exchange by reducing the number of pilgrims.
I am working in KKI airport since 2000. My mother was planned and submit her papers to the concerned authorities for Hajj 2009 this year. I think to ban elderly this year will effect all members of our family. At least government should rethink before ban. Some pilgrims even ready to die in Makkah because of imotional impact on our greatest Religion. Hoping reconsider the ban. Thanks Hasan 050 297 3664