Hajj 2020: Saudi Arabia yet to decide as virus cases increase
Saudi Arabia is likely to scale back or call off the Hajj pilgrimage this year for the first time in modern history as coronavirus cases surges.
Muslim countries are urging Riyadh to announce its much-delayed decision regarding Hajj 2020.
Over 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year. But the decision has not been announced this year.
A South Asian official in contact with Saudi Hajj authorities told AFP, “It’s a toss-up between holding a nominal Hajj and scrapping it entirely,”
A Saudi official told AFP: “The decision will soon be made and announced.”
Indonesia withdrew from the pilgrimage this month after pressing Riyadh for clarity. Malaysia, Senegal, and Singapore also withdrew from the pilgrimage.
Several other Muslim countries including Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, and Bulgaria, are waiting for the official announcement.
Faith leaders in other countries such as France have insisted on the Muslims to “postpone” their pilgrimage plans.
“Saudi Arabia is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” Umar Karim, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told AFP.
“The delay in announcing its decision shows it understands the political consequences of canceling the hajj or reducing its scale.”
Saudi officials said that Saudi Arabia is “buying time” as it treads cautiously.
He said, “At the last minute if Saudi says ‘we are ready to do a full Hajj’, (logistically) many countries will not be in a position”
“The Hajj is the most important spiritual journey in the life of any Muslim, but if Saudi Arabia proceeds in this scenario it will not only exert pressure on its own health system,” said Yasmine Farouk from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It could also be widely held responsible for fanning the pandemic.”
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