Singapore pilgrims' haj to Mecca to be deferred for second year
For the second consecutive year, Singaporean pilgrims will have to defer undertaking the haj pilgrimage to Mecca because of the Covid-19 pandemic, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) yesterday.
Muis will facilitate the re-allocation of haj places for the 900 affected pilgrims to next year.
This will, however, be subject to requirements mandated by the authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well as the prevailing public health situation around the world and in Singapore.
The Fatwa Committee, a group of senior religious scholars who issue religious rulings and guidance here, has met to discuss the deferment and supports it for health and safety reasons, Muis said.
The annual haj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, slated to begin in mid-July, is one of the world's largest religious gatherings.
In 2019, about 2.5 million Muslims from around the world travelled to Saudi Arabia for it, but this number was significantly smaller last year because of the coronavirus outbreak.
While Muis has "full confidence" in Saudi Arabia's management of the pandemic and that appropriate measures will be put in place should the haj be allowed to proceed this year, it said that it had its own considerations to safeguard the health and well-being of Singaporean pilgrims.
The council noted that as at Tuesday, Saudi Arabia has not yet announced an official decision on the haj this year, and it remains unclear whether it will be opened to international pilgrims.
Muis noted that the evolving nature of Covid-19 and the emergence of new, more contagious variants of the virus mean that despite good control measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims, their health and safety would still be at risk.
The Association of Muslim Travel Agents (Amtas) supports Muis' decision.
The council said Amtas and other haj service agents have agreed that deposits paid by pilgrims last year, which have been carried over to this year, should be refunded.
It is working with the Saudi Arabian authorities to facilitate the refund of deposits paid, and pilgrims should expect to hear about this from their respective agents within two weeks.
Pilgrims can contact their agents or Muis' haj unit should they have any queries.