PUTRAJAYA: Tabung Haji is suspending all affairs related to haj operations for the coming season, in line with Saudi Arabia’s decision to restrict this year’s pilgrimage to its citizens and residents within the kingdom.
Tabung Haji group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Amrin Awaluddin said although they already made preparations up to the last stage, the board accepted the decision.
“The decision to postpone the departure of Malaysian pilgrims this year shows the Saudi Arabia government’s concerns of the security aspect, health and wellbeing of the people,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Amrin added that Malaysians residing in Saudi could apply through the Saudi Arabian Hajj and Umrah Ministry to perform the haj, but their application would be subject to the selection criteria and the Saudi government’s standard operating procedure.
He said those who were given their turn in 2020 and who were previously given priority this year, would now be prioritised to perform the haj in 2022.
“For prospective pilgrims whose turn is this year (2021), they will also be given opportunities in 2022 subject to vacancies in the current year’s quota.”
Amrin also advised Muslims in Malaysia to not be influenced by any parties offering haj packages or haj substitutes for this year.
“We urge all prospective pilgrims to be patient and accept this decision calmly and continue to pray for the situation to recover to allow pilgrimage to continue in the coming seasons,” he said.
Malaysia did not send pilgrims for the haj season last year, also because of the pandemic.
According to a report, Saudi Arabia has also set a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report added that only those aged between 18 and 65 who have been vaccinated would be allowed to perform the haj.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said Malaysia respects Saudi Arabia’s decision on the matter.
He said he received a phone call from Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr Abdulfattah Sulaiman Mashat, who conveyed his government’s decision.
Zulkifli added that Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had also received a call from his counterpart, Prince Faisal Farhan Al Saud, on the matter.
He also apologised to those who have been selected to perform the pilgrimage because they now had to postpone their haj.
“I will see to it that the affairs of Malaysians who are in Saudi Arabia and have been selected to perform the haj will be looked after by Tabung Haji and will follow the standard operating procedure enforced by the government,” he said.