Due to construction work to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the government of Saudi Arabia requested that would-be pilgrims consider postponing their plans to undertake Haj this year. To further make the point, the government reduced the number of Haj and Umrah visas by 20%. This did not sit well with all, including those who had already started making their plans to go, as well as companies and individuals that provided support services to pilgrims.
Now, Arab News reports, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has come to Saudi Arabia’s support, pointing out that the reduction is a one-time thing and that reduced numbers are important for safety. I’m sure that this won’t satisfy those frustrated by the reduction, but there’s not much that can be done about that. Overcrowding in the past has led to pilgrim deaths, something which the Saudis do not wish to see repeated.
JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
The 56-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has backed Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 percent during this Haj season, saying it was essential to ensure the safety and security of the guests of God.
“This is a temporary decision that was taken as a result of the ongoing expansion work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and holy sites,” said OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and urged OIC countries to cooperate with the Saudi government.
He said the expansion projects at the Haram Mosque, especially for mataf (the circumambulation area around the Kaaba), are aimed at enhancing facilities for the growing number of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah. “While supporting the measures taken by Saudi Arabia, we call upon OIC countries to cooperate with the Kingdom in carrying out appropriate measures it has adopted for the purpose,” the secretary-general said.