DHAKA – Bangladeshi would-be pilgrims have been complaining of increasing security restrictions imposed by the government on hajj visas and travel, seeing the government’s monopoly of hajj airfare as shattering the dreams of many aspiring pilgrims.
“We have filed a case in court to open the third carrier for Hajj pilgrims,” Ibrahim Bahar, president of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), told OnIslam.
“The case is pending, so this problem has not been solved till now,” he added.
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Bahar, the president of HAAB, association of 835 hajj agencies of Bangladesh, complaints echoed voices of thousands of Bangladeshi pilgrims every year.
Being the third largest Muslim country with a population of 160 million, Bangladesh has a large number of pilgrims every year.
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This year, an estimated 98,799 Muslims will be performing hajj, 97,265 of whom are performing under the management of private hajj agencies and only 1,534 under government scheme.
However, the government’s monopoly of hajj flights through Saudi Airlines and Bangladesh Biman has taken hajj fares to skyrocketing figure for Bangladeshi Muslims.
Having a fixation of the fare for Hajj fare, pilgrims have to pay increasing figure every year, with the minimum cost estimated by four thousand US dollar for air ticket, food and accommodation as per the Hajj package for 2014.
Complaining about the growing problem, both pilgrims and hajj organizers have been urging the government to allow a third carrier to offer competitive prices.
“The lack of proper management has created problems for hajj affairs in Bangladesh,” Mohammad Abdus Sakur, former president of HAAB, told OnIslam.net.
The delay of bar code visa for hajj agencies representatives, also known as Monazzems, has been creating more problems for pilgrims.
In previous years, Monazzems received multiple visas from the Saudi government and could frequently travel to and from Bangladesh and Saudi Arab for carrying out their administrative works.
This year, however, the Saudi embassy did not award multiple visas to Monazzems, amid rumours they were given to state-managed Hajj pilgrims and to public official and employees.
Along with administrative problems affecting Bangladeshi pilgrims, a new rule, demanding a security clearance for pilgrims less than 50 years, has added to their woes.
“Police clearance report for less than 50 years of Hajj pilgrim is new condition which is a tool to obstacle hajj,” Mohammad Sanaullah, a senior journalist, told OnIslam.net.
He said that most of the Hajj would-be pilgrims have been harassed by the police in the name of so called police clearance.
Opponents to the decision argued that this police clearance was not necessary as every hajj pilgrim got a passport through police verification and clearance.
These many hurdles have dissuaded many Bangladeshi’s from the dream journey of hajj.
“Most of the Bangladeshi peoples feel Hajj performance is so tough, but this is not true,” Mohammad Nurul Huda, a would-be pilgrim this year, told OnIslam.net.
“Therefore, government and Hajj agencies should broadcast and promote that Hajj performance is not too tough,” he added.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Hajj is officially expected to fall between October 2 and 7, with the climax falling on October 3 when the faithful descend the Mount `Arafat.