Saudi clerics approve fewer hajj pilgrims

2013-06-26 21:53

Riyadh - Saudi Arabia's religious authorities on Wednesday approved a request by the government to reduce the number of pilgrims permitted at Islam's annual hajj this year to allow expansion work at Mecca's Grand Mosque.

The decision to reduce numbers from abroad by a fifth, and from inside Saudi Arabia by half, comes as the kingdom's authorities attempt to contain the SARS-like coronavirus MERS, but the authorities drew no link between the issues.

Last year more than 3 million pilgrims travelled to Mecca for the pilgrimage, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime, if they are capable.

The ruling al-Saud family stakes much of its legitimacy on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and has in recent years spent billions of dollars to expand the main pilgrimage areas and improve their safty.

King Abdullah carries the official title Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

But critics have also attacked the conservative Sunni dynasty for razing some historical sites that date from the time of the Prophet Mohammed and are particularly important to Shi'ite Muslims in order to facilitate the expansion programmes.

In statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday, the Supreme Judicial Council said the reduction in pilgrim numbers was legitimate to ensure safety while work was carried out to allow more pilgrims to come in future.

Similar statements were made by top officials at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina and the Great Mosque in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has so far had 62 confirmed cases of MERS, a respiratory infection, of which 34 patients died.

On Saturday international health experts meeting at the World Health Organisation's Cairo office said countries where MERS was a risk should put in place plans to handle any mass public gatherings.

This year hajj will be in October, but many pilgrims will also seek to visit Mecca in July during the fasting month of Ramadan.

  • Chris Constantinou - 2013-06-26 22:35

    No better place than the holy country of Saudi Arabia to pray for a cure.

      Avremel Niselow - 2013-06-27 09:35

      Unless you're a woman or an infidel.

      Na-aem Williams - 2013-06-27 10:10

      @Chris and Avremel , do you guys really want to go down to that path of insults ,please dont make a mockary to what you dont know.

      Na-aem Williams - 2013-06-27 10:12

      I can teach you guys alot about your own faith and you will deny it.

      Avremel Niselow - 2013-06-27 13:09

      So women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia? Are Christians or Jews allowed into Mecca? Who did I insult in my comment?

      Avremel Niselow - 2013-06-27 14:27

      So you can't answer my questions?

  • Na-aem Williams - 2013-06-27 14:19

    @MemeMan or what ever you call yourself you sound uneducated

  • Na-aem Williams - 2013-06-27 14:29

    @MemeMan if you seek to have a conversation with me add me on facebook ,i will put you on your place , you sound like some1 who post articles from the internet making people believe that it's your own.Your opinions will be respected as i expect mine to be respected aswell.If we wish not to invite me thats fine , but i thrive on people like you when it comes to having a debate .

  • Na-aem Williams - 2013-06-27 15:06

    That goes to you aswell Averemel , clearly you do not mean good with your comment.

      Avremel Niselow - 2013-06-27 15:49

      So you can't answer. What a cop out.

      Avremel Niselow - 2013-06-27 16:19

      Three simple questions, no answers.

  • Zareen Khan-Mohammed - 2013-06-30 21:33

    Its unbelievable how many people go to perform hijj.Its amazing.

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