Cape Town - The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) and the Masjidul-Quds Board of Trustees have come out in full support of thousands of Muslims who are opposed to Saudi Arabia’s decision to increase the cost of a Hajj and Umrah visa by between R5 300 to R6 300.

The move comes as an online petition calling for the “inhumane” visa prices to be scrapped gained momentum, with more than 7 500 people supporting the campaign started by AK Abdool.

Sahuc said they were deeply disappointed by the Saudi Arabian government’s decision to impose a SR2 000 (R7 300) price for the visa to travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage, which started on October 2.

Sahuc president Shaheen Essop said in the past there were no specific fees for visas, except for administrative costs, which ranged from about R1 000 to R2 000.

He said the Saudi government announced it had been going through tough economic times due to the drop in oil prices.

Sahuc general secretary Hassan Choonara said the council had not received formal communication from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or its embassy in Pretoria.

“However, Sahuc firmly supports the concern and dismay that the implementation of the Umrah visa fee has caused among the public. In this regard, Sahuc has written to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation requesting their intervention with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Masjidul-Quds Board of Trustees chair Sataar Parker said: “The Saudi authorities have unilaterally taken this decision which will, no doubt, deprive many Muslims all over the world from visiting the holy city of Mecca.”

Cape Times

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