South Africans have been very vocal in showing their dissatisfaction for the latest implementation of the visa costs after Saudi Arabian authorities in recent months, implemented revised visa charges.
Civil society groups, such as the Consumer Action Network, have called on the South African government to intervene.
Director of Consumer Action Network, Imraan Mukadam says that a hajj conference should be held in order to discuss the way forward.
“The present, self-regulating regime under the wing of SAHUC [South African Haj and Umrah Council], is clearly not working for South Africans. We’re proposing a SADC region hajj mission so all the countries that make up the SADC [Southern African Development Community] region should come together and negotiate collectively with the Saudi government,” he says.
“Many of these SADC regions are not using their quota because they are poor, like Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique who have a considerable number of Muslims. This gives South African hujaaj and those on the SAHUC waiting list an opportunity to use those quotas if we [SA] was part of a broader SADC hajj mission” he adds.
Mukaddam comments on the relationship between South African Muslims and the rest of the SADC region, saying that the relationship needs to be strengthened.
“As Muslims in South Africa, we tend to not want to be part of Africa and we believe that this would be a good way to stimulate our relationship with the rest of the SADC region,” he says.
In relation to the current hajj and umrah visa system, he says it is “un-Islamic”.
“We can’t tax people for wanting to go for hajj. It is an unjust regime that the Saudi’s have imposed on the Muslim ummah, globally.”
“Countries like Morocco, Egypt and other middle-east countries, have in fact, boycotted the Umrah and that had a severe impact on the economy of Saudis tourism industry,” he added.
He comments on the proposed discussion for the ‘SADC hajj solution’.
“Though Saudi Arabia has back-tracked on this, they haven’t gone far enough. At the aforementioned conference we will look at the issue of, what should hajj look like from an international perspective and should hajj be the domain of the Saudi regime alone – or should it be governed by a united global Muslim assembly so that it become international terrain?,” he says.
Mukkadam says that the current SAHUC model is not feasible.
“We have to be conscious of the fact that hajj impacts over one billion Muslims, globally. Hajj cannot be held ransom by a handful of Saudi fanatics.
The current SAHUC model is not representative of conventional Muslims. It doesn’t have a mandate from the Muslim community to act on our behalf. The model has failed us,” he says.
He urges governments to get involved.
“We need the governments from the SADC region to buy into the idea of collaborating and supporting the process. The SADC solution provides for a decrease in hajj visa prices and WAQAF accommodation for travellers to Mecca. Currently, South Africans don’t have access to this,” he says.
“South Africans are being denied from accommodation in Mecca, that they could have qualified for, had they been acknowledged as part of the SADC region. The SADC solution will make hajj accessible to the poorer Muslim community,” he added.
VOC (Ra-ees Moerat)