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UK Muslims Face ’10-Year Wait’ as Saudi Cuts Hajj Quota

Awaiting the first normal hajj after three years of COVID restrictions, the British Muslims have expressed disappointment for Saudi government’s decision to cut the quota for the UK to only 3,600, down from the 25,000+ pre-pandemic figure.

The new quota, in line with Muslim majority countries, was announced under a new system introduced by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The decision could force UK Muslims to face ’10-year wait’ to perform the life time journey.

Concerns around the quota came to light after the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched a new booking system known as Nusuk, replacing the decades-old system of allowing local travel agencies to organize hajj tours for western pilgrims.

📚 Read Also:  Hajj 101: Here’s How Muslims Perform Hajj

When some British Muslims tried to use the system to book a hajj package they could not because of messages that claimed the “country capacity is full” for the UK.

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“In previous years the quota from the UK of pilgrims to go to Hajj was almost 25,000 people. This year through the new Nusuk platform it is around 3,500 people,” Shabana Qassim, from Bradford, who had her package cancelled, told 5Pillars.

“We in the UK are blessed to have more of a disposable income, therefore, the obligations to perform Hajj are more significant for us.”

A Twitter user also wrote, “Please can you reinstate the original quota for the UK. Over 40,000 joined Nusuk from the UK yet there is 3,600 places available. This is unfair, you promised that numbers will revert to pre-covid (2019). That’s not happened for UK, the situation is much worse than last year.”

Hajj is an important event in the Islamic calendar as millions of Muslims gather every year in Saudi Arabia city of Makkah to perform the life-time journey.

UK Muslims Face '10-Year Wait' as Saudi Cuts Hajj Quota - About Islam

Changing Quota

Feeling the outrage of UK Muslims, members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hajj and Umrah, chaired by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, held an emergency meeting in parliament on Tuesday to discuss the situation, Middle East Eye reported.

It comes after Qureshi and other five other members of the group travelled to Saudi Arabia in February to meet officials at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, including Deputy Minister Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat.

The delegation urged the ministry to reconsider its decision because, they said, the UK had met and exceeded its Hajj quota.

“The reduction would have a detrimental effect on Muslims wanting to perform Hajj from the UK as they could end up waiting between five and 10 years. Concerns were also raised over the mechanism to monitor and record Hajj applications and [the] process to make it fair for people to go on Hajj,” the meeting minutes said.

Rashid Mogradia, the chief executive of the Council for British Hajjis, an organization which serves as the secretariat of the APPG, said: “Yasmin Qureshi will be meeting the Saudi authorities to raise issues faced by British Muslims with the new booking platform and to explore the idea of expanding and restoring the quota to pre-pandemic levels in order to meet demand.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Minister for Hajj & Umrah announced that the annual hajj would return to pre-pandemic levels this year after removing COVID-19 restrictions.

In 2019, more than 2.4 million people took part in hajj. However, in 2020, amid the coronavirus lockdowns, the Kingdom drastically curtailed the hajj with as few as 1,000 residents of Saudi Arabia permitted to take part.

In 2021, the number increased to 60,000 residents of Saudi Arabia, and last year, nearly 900,000 pilgrims  performed hajj.