Malaysia risks losing privileges if citizens continue violating Saudi laws

Gathering of the faithful: Tents housing Muslim pilgrims are pitched together in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

MECCA: Malaysia risks losing the special privileges granted by Saudi Arabia if its citizens continue to violate the Kingdom’s laws and regulations, including misusing tourist visas to perform haj.

Malaysian Haj Delegation head Datuk Seri Syed Salleh Syed Abdul Rahman said that if one is caught misusing tourist visas, it would tarnish Malaysia’s reputation and image, which has long been held in high regard by Saudi Arabia.

"We need to understand that Saudi Arabia often gives Malaysia priority, facilities and privileges in various situations, including tourist visas, umrah visas and haj visas,” he told reporters at the Tabung Haji (TH) headquarters here on Tuesday (May 14) night.

The TH haj executive director was met after welcoming the arrival of the second group of Malaysian haj pilgrims from Madinah, consisting of 281 people who arrived on seven buses. Also present was the deputy head of the Malaysian haj delegation (welfare), Mohamed Heikal Mohamed Yusuff.

Syed Salleh further said that Malaysia was also given the privilege to use tourist visas for performing umrah, a privilege extended only to three Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Kazakhstan, while the visa is generally a facility for non-Muslim countries for tourism purposes.

"I want to advise those planning to use visas other than haj visas to overstay and perform the pilgrimage to not do so. Firstly, it violates TH’s laws and regulations as these individuals come with companies not licensed by TH.

"Secondly, they are also breaking Saudi regulations, and the Saudi government has issued a ruling that using visas other than haj visas to perform haj is not permissible according to our religion,” he said.

As such, Syed Salleh advised Malaysians holding visas other than haj visas to leave the Holy Land by the 29th of Zulkaedah to avoid being arrested and facing more severe legal actions.

This year, the Saudi government is taking a strong stance on the issue due to numerous fraud cases and overcrowding in the pilgrim tents in Mina and Arafah, which have disrupted services for legitimate haj pilgrims.

As a result, Saudi authorities have started setting up roadblocks and monitoring specific routes to ensure that only those with valid haj visas are allowed into pilgrimage areas, especially in Mecca.

"We also received reports that the Saudi government has started arresting agencies that try to offer haj services to those who come with tourist or umrah visas.

"This is a clear message from the Saudi government, not just now but also in the past. This message was also communicated several months ago to all countries sending haj pilgrims, proving the seriousness of the issue,” Syed Salleh said.

Meanwhile, a total of 563 haj pilgrims from the first group (KT01) and the second group (KT02) have arrived in stages at the Abraj Al Janadiriyah Hotel, which also serves as TH Headquarters in Mecca.

These groups were then taken to perform umrah in stages from 9pm, assisted by the TH haj facilitators.- Bernama

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haj , visa , arrest , Saudi Arabia


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