RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian government has agreed to give Malaysia an additional 10,000 pilgrims for its haj quota, says Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said he made the request during his audience with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who is also the kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, at the Al-Yamamah Palace here on Tuesday.
“When the haj situation returns to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic, we will get the additional quota for our pilgrims, ” he told Malaysian media at the end of his four-day official visit to the kingdom.
Muhyiddin said the Crown Prince gave a very positive answer and assurance to the request as Saudi Arabia always welcomed Malaysian pilgrims who are known for being well-behaved, well-disciplined, and “less problematic”.
Mecca and Madinah were also undergoing expansion development currently to cater to more pilgrims in future, the Prime Minister said.
However, Muhyiddin said Malaysians needed to be patient as a very limited number of pilgrims were allowed to perform the fifth pillar of Islam last year due to the global pandemic.
He said several other good news came out of the meeting as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia had formalised the Mecca Road Service initiative with the signing of a memorandum of understanding that would ease and simplify the pre-clearance process for Malaysian haj and umrah pilgrims.
He said these include airport arrangements, visa and passport checks, Customs procedures and other logistical arrangements.
“Malaysian pilgrims no longer need to wait for hours during immigration checks in this country. They can go straight to their waiting buses, ” he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Pilgrims Fund Board (TH) has welcomed Muhyiddin’s announcement of Malaysia getting the additional haj quota, as it will reduce the waiting time for Malaysians to perform the pilgrimage in the future.
“Each year TH makes thorough preparations encompassing numerous aspects locally and in the holy land to ensure Muslims in Malaysia can perform the haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, smoothly, ” it said in a statement.
According to the TH website, the Saudi Arabian government has set the haj quota for every country at 0.1% of the total population and the quota for Malaysia is currently at 31,600.
Meanwhile, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) chief executive Herizal Hazri said among the outcomes of the visit included the 10,000 additional quota for haj which showed Saudi Arabia has high regards for the government and Muslims of Malaysia.
“It is not easy to obtain the additional quota. It has to go through very sensitive processes as Saudi Arabia is the Custodian of Mecca which belongs to all Muslims in the world.
“The granting of the quota shows our capability and reputation in managing the haj delegation well so far, ” he said. — Bernama