Washington: Saudi Arabia said it will allow the Hajj to go forward this year for a limited number of Muslims already in the kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first time since the kingdom’s modern founding that it has taken such a move for the annual pilgrimage for Muslims from around the world.
Muslims of various nationalities who are already residing inside the kingdom will be able to perform Hajj in July, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the government ministry that oversees the pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia will establish safety measures to ensure the Hajj takes place with the hygienic requirements and social separation necessary to ensure people’s safety, the SPA report said.
Although expected amid a global health emergency, the move to limit the event will have repercussions for Muslims around the globe. For many, the Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime journey that often requires years of waiting to secure visas and save money for the trip. In March, the Saudi minister who oversees the Hajj asked people to wait for more “clarity” before making plans for the pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage has been interrupted by disease or conflict several times during the 1,400-year history of Islam, including at the end of the 18th century during Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaigns in the Arab world.
Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, has been a key epicenter for the novel coronavirus outbreak in the kingdom, partly because of the city’s packed slums and large number of undocumented immigrants. While Saudi Arabia has reported one of the lowest death rates in the world from the virus, it’s struggled to contain its spread in crowded labor camps. The total number of cases reported in the kingdom rose to 161.005 as of today, including 22,219 in Mecca. – Bloomberg
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