Hajj and umrah are money making factory for Saudi Arabia
Management of hajj and umrah is not an exclusive right for Saudi Arabia.30 Agustus 2017 11:37
Kabah di Kota Makkah, Arab Saudi. (Arab Saudi)
He was born and grew up in holy city Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, he knows very well how the Saudi government has destroyed the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah by modernizing those two holy cities.
In an exclusive interview with Albalad.co two years ago, Dr Irfan al-Alawi, the Executive Director oof the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, based in London, acknowledged that muslim world is too late to save Makkah. Because 98 percnets of Islamic historical sites were gone, replaced by new buldings and malls around the Kabah.
At the present time, Alawi is very concerned about Saudi's economic reform through Vision 2030. The plan announced by Crown Prince Prince Muhammad bin Salman will seek alternatives for state revenue beside oil. He is afraid the Saudi government continues to raise the costs for hajj and umrah, so it will be unaffordable for every muslims to perform for hajj and umrah.
"This should be stopped or otherwise people from far east or other countries will not be able to perform for hajj and umrah," said Alawi, in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via WhatsApp last week.
Can you explain how does the Saudi government moneytize hajj and umrah after oil price fell?
The Saudi government uses hajj and umrah to be able to make money from the insane pilgrims. For example, average houses in every hajj cost at least six to eight thousand pound sterlings and of course it goes up to ten to 12 thousand pounds.
Umrah in Ramadan is also expensive. They are using money to be able to fund luxurious life and not to be able to make the better system for umrah and hajj.
I emphasizes on health and safety issues are still very unsecure for pilgrims. Many of them die. Only recently, in Madinah last week, there was a wooden balcony of a hotel where a female pilgrim fell and killed her.
Although oil prices are railing down and they will not be able to save oil in another 40 years time, so they are relying on hajj and umrah. We should stop the Saudi government to continune raising prices for hajj and umrah, otherwise it will be unaffordable for many millions to visit Makkah and Madinah.
The prices for hajj and umrah in Makkah and Madinah should be given control to the muslim world, muslim council. So, the muslim leaders in the world can decide together what the prices of hajj and umrah should be. This should be taken away from the control of the Saudi dictattorship, who are using this and claiming the custodian of Makkah and Madinah which they are clearly not.
Do you think the current costs for hajj and umrah are too expensive?
Yes, the costs for haj and umrah it is very extortened and it is only for high profit for the Saudi government. They can make this at very cheap for dormentory lodging, maybe two or three star hotels. So that everyone can afford this.
But extortened rates for five star package definitely this is money making venture for Saudi govenrment. This should be stopped or otherwise people from far east or other countries will not be able to perform for hajj and umrah.
Do you have any estimation that how much the Saudi government gain revenue from hajj and umrah annually?
Hajj and umrah revenue is 12 to 14 billion dollars annually.
How can we control the prices for hajj and umrah?
Rates can be reduce for hajj and umrah when the muslim world unites and as a league pressurizes the Saudi government for the extortened rates. And they have to reduce the rates like the Roman Catholics can go to Vatican in Rome, the rates are equal to everyone. So, they can afford for umrah and hajj.
But for this, the Saudi government's extortened rates continue to raise and they will continue to raise. Therefore, they will continue to make five star and seven star hotels like in Dubai. There is no need for the luxurious seven star hotels.
This is an excuse when they are living in the seven star hotels that the rates are expensive in Ramadan. The last Asyura, the rate for for one room is 500 pound sterlings per night. How can anyyone afford 500 pounds for one night? No one can afford it.
So, we have to negotiate with Saudi government that to make hajj and umrah affordable. Hajj as normal every year and umrah affordable and in Ramadan as well.
And to provide reasonable lodgings, there is no need luxurious hotels as I said. People need clean bathrooms, toilets, and wudus.
In Mina and Arafah there are sufficient tents. There is no need to have buildings. Hajj is not in building, hajj is a sacrifice. Muslim must scarifice when they go to Arafah.
So the Saudi govenrment bringing these certains things to make hajj easy for ummah but charging for these facilities which is not right. And also, the money that hey gained from hajj and umrah should be able to distribute this to the rest of muslim world.
According to Vison 2030, Saudi will alternatives for state revenue. Do ou believe that Saudi govenrment will continue to raise the costs for hajj and umrah?
The 2030 Vision by Prince Muhammad (Bin Salman) is quitely dangerous for the economy of Saudi Arabia because they have already expelled many muslims, Egyptians, Sudanese, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, Indians, Pakistanis, and they want continue to be rum by solo Saudis.
Therefore, the economy can not be improved caused by high unemployment in the kingdom. The local Saudis do not want to work and of course recession is a big problem for Saudi Arabia as things are very expensive now. For example, meats is about a thousand riyals, before six hundred riyals. Now it is very expensive
Of course, oil revenue is not going to last. It is going to disappear because everyone is depending on.
But nevertheless, petrol is going to be used for some years to come. And then of course, the Saudis do not have alternative state revenue other than perhaps digging of the gold at the Mountain of Uhud because they know that the Mountain of Uhud is gold.
As you know hadis Rasulullah that mountain of gold is Uhud. So, they know that if they can not make revenue from black gold which is oil, then they will start digging for other golds which is Uhud.
And I pray insha Allah they do not got to the Uhud. But we can not predict the Saudi Wahabi idea, especially with Prince Muhammad bin Salman, as he is very extreme. he is not a moderate ruler, he is a very extreme ruler.
The Saudi government always refuse any idea for internationally management of hajj and umrah. So, what the muslim countries can do to give a pressure Saudi?
It is true they refuse any international management of hajj and umrah. The only way to have this is a universal meeting in Egypt, endorsed by senior ulamas and leaders of Sunni muslim world to pressurize the Saudi government and say they refuse extortened rates.
This can only happen in internatinal level when muslim world unites against Saudi petro dollar regime.
Or all muslims in the world have to boycott hajj and umrah to give a great pressure against Saudi to hand over the management of hajj and umrah to muslim council?
Perhaps if all muslims boycott hajj and umrah this would put pressure on the Saudi government. But before that, perhaps the muslim world should unite and say that we can not let the Saudi government control hajj and umrah as these (Makkah and Madinah) are not belong to the Saudi government even though it is in the Kingdom. However Makkah and madinah are belong to the muslim world.
If the Saudi government disagrees then the muslim world should try and boycott hajj and umrah. So that the Saudi government realizes that this is unfair for the muslim world to suffer under the dictatorship.
Beside moneytize, do you also agree that the Saudi government politicizes hajj and umrah for their interests?
Yes absolutely, Saudi definitely politicizes hajj and umrah and they use emotional blackmail to get the way around the muslim world indifferent countries. This is the reason why the muslim world should react and not be bullied by the tactics and emotional blackmail of Saudi to politicize hajj and umrah.
Can you explain how does the Saudi government politice hajj and umrah?
Saudi Arabia politicizes hajj and umrah by letting people come in from countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, and poor countries who work as maids and other jobs they have. While these people are working in the Kingdom, they have controlled over their countries.
When they expell them there will be high unemployment in those countries. Saudi Arabia tries to use poor countries for its political reasons and blackmails. And therefore providing hajj and umrah is a political game for Saudi Arabia.
Can we conclude that politicize and moneytize hajj and umrah committed by Saudi have destroyed the sanctity of those rituals?
Exactly, the politicize and moneytize of hajj and umrah by Saudi Arabia has destroyed the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah and of course the ritual of hajj and umrah, because it is like a business for Saudi Arabia but also using emotional blackmail aganist the poorer countries.