Muslims angered by proposed Hajj visa fee implementation

Cape Town - Anger among South Africa's Muslim community is mounting following a proposed Hajj and Umrah visa fee implementation by Saudi Arabian authorities.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage attracts millions of people from around the globe. Umrah is a mini-pilgrimage that also attracts massive crowds throughout the year.

Saudi media reported their government resolved to implement a fee of around R10 000 for pilgrims. The fee excludes first time travellers.

Various countries including Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Jordan have expressed their opposition to the visa fees.

An urgent public meeting has been called for Sunday to protest the visa hike.

The meeting will be co-chaired by social activist, Yusuf Abramjee and the Secretary-General of the Jamiatul Ulama [Council of Muslim Theologians] Moulana Ebrahim Bham.

Urgent meeting

Abramjee who recently returned from Hajj said Muslims were uniting to show their opposition to the proposed visa fee introduction.

"Umrah season is about to start and people are furious. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cannot introduce this exorbitant fee. It is going to impact negatively on Muslims not only in South Africa but across the world. It is going to make pilgrimage difficult for many.”

Abramjee said an interim committee was setup to drive the visa fee opposition.

“We will decide this weekend what action will be taken going forward," he told News24.

He said there would be an attempt to engage the Saudi Embassy in Pretoria and department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco). Other options such as petitions and protests will also be considered, he said.

“We want urgent answers from the embassy. They are not responding to letters from various organisations including the SA Hajj and Umrah Council and the Jamiatul Ulama and travel operators," Abramjee said.

Abramjee called on the community to attend the meeting "so that we can raise our voices and unite."

He said Dirco and the Saudi Embassy have been asked to send representatives to the meeting but could not confirm if officials would attend.

The meeting will be held at 11:00 on Sunday at the Abbey Hall, Wynberg High School, Ottery Road, Wynberg.

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