The Hajj of 2020 has almost been cancelled but in spite of this, the local Haji of Saudi Arabia will go for it. Just before the election year 2019, India got the decree to increase quota of Indian Hajis from Saudi Arabia. This number has increased to 2 lakhs. But even after this Hajj is not there this season, the Indian Hajis complain not only because of local problems of Indian Mission there, but it may concern with Saudi Arabian management. The most important thing in this is about cleanliness and health. As most of the Hajis in India are aged, health, food, cleanliness and communication become major issues for them.
Respiratory Health Issues during Hajj
Shahrul Anuwar M.Y., Irfan Mohamad and Imran Abdullah, the three researchers from Malaysian different medical universities filed a research paper in 2016 about the health issues regarding the respiratory facemask. Study showed that the respiratory diseases are a common illness during hajj season and respiratory tract infections are the commonest cause of hospital admission during hajj. Pneumonia alone was the most common cause for hospital admission which accounted for 19.7% to 39.4% during hajj season.
Over 2 millions people congregate in Mecca every year to perform Hajj. Pilgrims are exposed to air-borne transmitted disease during this overcrowding period. Several measures have been practiced to reduce the spread of disease particularly the respiratory tract related infection. One of the preventive measures is by using face mask. Nevertheless, the use of face mask among pilgrims is shown to be only partially effective. This is attributed to the knowledge on the air borne transmitted disease, attitude towards wearing, technique of application, and to some extent the design of the face mask itself. The annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia brings over two million people to a small confined area. As one of the consequences, respiratory tract infection is the most common disease transmitted during this period. Air-borne transmission is the route of spread. The symptoms include cough, runny nose, sore throat, and fever. It was suggested that the face masks were equally effective in preventing spread detectable influenza virus when used by infected patients. It is also potentially effective at preventing respiratory virus acquisition by household contacts of infected persons when worn by healthy persons.
There is a serious issue on communicable disease especially in congested area such as during hajj. Communicable diseases are known complications of being in a very congested and highly densed population. A large outbreak of meningococcal meningitis has been reported in 1987 and 20003.
In 2004 hajj season, pulmonary diseases like pneumonia, pulmonary edema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchial asthma were the next commonest admission to intensive care units after myocardial infarction. Pneumonia contributed to 22.1% of intensive care admission. Respiratory symptoms are one of the most common problems faced by pilgrims in Mecca. The respiratory infection is a communicable disease with high potential to spread among pilgrims especially those without precaution measures. Acute respiratory infection (ARI) is the leading cause of admission to Saudi hospitals during the hajj. Each year, at least 60% of them develop respiratory symptoms there or during outward or homebound transit.
Saeed Noori Board member of Alharmain Watch from India said we can interpreted that the some pilgrim highly concern about the Islamic rule of covering face with mask during hajj even though their government recommended the use of face mask. The pilgrim from India likely show much concern about the measure of precaution to undertaken according to the percentage, they least follow the recommendation to use the face mask. However, there is a concern on how effective and consistent the face mask used by the India pilgrims even though the data show the facemask popular among them.
MBS making Hajj tough to Saudian Critics
Prince Mohammad bin Salman has attempted to cast Saudi Arabia in a more positive light and mask the country’s more aggressive internal and foreign policies by undertaking so-called liberal reforms. But it has not been enough to silence those who continue to draw attention to his government’s human rights abuses.
The rising death toll of civilians killed by Saudi bombs in Yemen, the horrific slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and Riyadh’s aggressive approach to the Iran crisis have led some of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies to reconsider their unwavering support for the kingdom. In late April, Libya’s most prominent Muslim Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani, called for all Muslims to boycott the hajj—the obligatory pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca.
The reasoning behind the boycott is the suggestion that boosting Saudi Arabia’s economy through pilgrimage continues to fuel arms purchases and direct attacks on Yemen—and indirectly Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, and Algeria. Ghariani added that investment in the hajj would “help Saudi rulers to carry out crimes against our fellow Muslims.”
Ghariani is not the first prominent Muslim scholar to support a ban on the hajj. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, also a Sunni cleric and vocal critic of Saudi Arabia, announced a fatwa in August last year banning the pilgrimage, instead stating, “Seeing Muslims feeding the hungry, treating the sick, and sheltering the homeless are better viewed by Allah than spending money on the hajj.”
Surprisingly many Sunni scholars did not condemn or criticize his remark including India while this is Islam’s fifth most obligatory religious duty.
Iraq & Turkey getting Tourism through Hajj
Saudi Arabia places a cap on the number of pilgrims that countries are allowed to send to the Hajj each year. And the Indian government only allows domestic travel agents to sell a maximum of 150 packages per season.
This year, Saudi Arabia increased India’s total allocation of Hajj places by 30,000 to a total 200,000, easing access to Islam’s holiest site for the 140 million-strong Muslim community in India.
A report on AlJazeera English news website quote a Mumbai based tourism businessman that Indian Hajis are now getting major representation at Saudi Arabia, while the sound Hajis calls to go nearby stations for the purpose. There are 3 hotspots that also getting tourism business alongside Saudi Arabia ie Iraq, Iran (via Iraq) & Turkey.
A hajj researcher from Jordan said tour operators have also found ways to leverage the Hajj pilgrimage to sell “add-on” holidays such as a week in nearby countries like Iraq or Turkey. This is giving the extra leverage to Iran also. The Shia and Bohra Hajis from India prefer to go to Iraq holy sites. Contrary they travel to Iraq from Iraq as there is no direct flight or the diplomatic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran.