Matta appeals to King to hold discussions with Saudi Arabia over suspension of umrah pilgrimage

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 27 Feb 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Association (Matta) has appealed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to intervene over the suspension of umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

"As Matta deputy president and behalf of Muslims in the country, we appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the head of Islam to hold discussions with Saudi Arabia's King Salaman Abdulaziz al-Saud and Saudi Arabia to reconsider the suspension of visa for the umrah for the good of the faithful worldwide.

"The suspension will prevent Muslims here from performing the pilgrimage and we hope the suspension is temporary and is lifted as soon as possible," its deputy president Mohd Akil Md Yusof said at a press conference here on Thursday (Feb 27).

Mohd Akil said the suspension of the visa by the Saudi government was unprecedented and came as a shock to tour operators and Muslims here who had been issued visas for the pilgrimage.

He said the Saudi embassy in Kuala Lumpur had confirmed the suspension pending further notice.

"There are five direct flights daily to Medina and Jeddah and from what we know, only one managed to get through just before the suspension came into effect," he said.

He noted that about 270,000 local Muslims perform the umrah a year and the suspension would affect about 100,000 who have yet to go on their pilgrimage.

"I appeal to those affected to remain calm and not get emotional as the suspension affects Muslim around the world and not only from Malaysia," he added.

He said that some 300 tour operators were affected by the visa suspension for umrah packages, ranging between RM4,999 and RM6,000 per person.

Mohd Akil acknowledged the move by the Saudi government to suspend the visa was aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 but hoped that it could be lifted by the middle of March.

He said Matta is in discussions with the airlines and hotels on how best to resolve issues faced by those affected by the visa suspension.

The Saudi foreign ministry announced temporarily suspension of entry into the country for umrah and visits to the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina on Thursday.

The suspension comes amid fears over the spread of the virus.

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