From the news desk

Umrah visa fees, a “moral issue”

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Over the past week, umrah and haj stakeholders have come out in opposition of calls to boycott the pilgrimage, following the announcement of an alarming 2000 Saudi Riyal visa change for repeat umrah and haj pilgrims. This after both Morocco and Egypt announced its boycott of both the minor and compulsory pilgrimage.

One organization is, however, criticizing the decision not to boycott umrah, stating that the Saudi regime is exploiting the global Muslim community to fund its military onslaught of Yemeni civilians. This week, the Consumer Action Network called on the broader Muslim community to take a decisive stance against the actions of the Saudi regime and boycott the minor pilgrimage. The network believes this will pressurize the Kingdom to end its military interventions in the already unstable region and to relinquish its “discriminatory” visa charges.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, spokesperson for the Consumer Action Network, Imraahn Ismail-Mukaddam described the imposed visa charges as “morally wrong”. Mukaddam explained that the organization is calling for a boycott of umrah and not haj, since haj is of the faraaid of Islam.

He said the visa price hikes is a direct result of Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in Yemen, which has left the Kingdom in need of alternative sources of revenue to fund its missions.

“They are unable to sustain their war efforts and are now burdening the global Muslim ummah to help pay for the destruction, mayhem, and genocide that it is perpetrating against the people of Yemen,” he stated.

Mukaddam asserts that given the fact that there are vested interests within South Africa to quell criticism of the Saudi onslaught of Yemen, many individuals will continue to speak in support of the regime despite calls from human rights groups.

“There are many vested interests within the South African Muslim community, especially the clergy with regards to Saudi Arabia. [Since] many of them have strong ties to Saudi Arabia; many have studied their and many are recipients of Saudi donor funding – this determines the khutab.”

In light of support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) South Africa and the overwhelming support for the besieged people of Palestine, he urges South Africans not to ignore the suffering of Yemen civilians at the hands of the Saudi regime.

“A lot of instability in the Middle East is funded by Saudi Arabia. So, we are saying that they are a destabilizing force in the world and a major threat to world peace. So we cannot be part of their aggression on their neighbours by paying these imposed taxes,” he added.

Mukaddam notes that while many have stated that they are willing to compromise with the Saudi regime on the visa costs, the visa costs will greatly impact the most poor and vulnerable foreign workers living within the Kingdom.

“There are over 5 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and it will affect the poorest Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Malaysian workers – so it’s much bigger than just the pilgrimage.”

Describing the tariffs as “deliberate discrimination”, Mukaddam says that Saudi authorities have given impunity to strategic western nations, while overtly enforcing unrealistic expectations on majority Muslim countries.

“The way these tariffs are being applied is immoral and unjust; US citizens are exempt from tariffs, UK citizens are paying 250 Saudi Riyals, but Indo-Pak and African countries are expected to pay 2000 Saudi riyals, and Indo-Pak countries must pay 950 Riyals for medical insurance,” Mukaddam noted.

He, therefore, asserts that through boycotting umrah, a non-obligatory ‘ibadah, the Muslim world will pressurize the Kingdom to rescind its new visa tariffs and review its mission in Yemen.





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