Friday, October 25, 2013


    Jakarta, Oct 25 (Antara) - The 2013 Hajj pilgrimage has just ended and, group by group, more than 170 thousand Indonesians will be returning to Indonesia from October 20 to November 18.
        Most of the pilgrims said they were grateful for the relatively smooth operations of the religious ritual in Saudi Arabia.
         Indonesia, which sends the largest number of pilgrims each year, is also grateful for better services, facilities and infrastructure made available during the pilgrimage.

         Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who arrived in Jakarta on October 24 after performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, expressed his appreciation to the Saudi government for providing better Hajj arrangements for millions of Muslims from all over the world, including Indonesia.  
   "There has been an improvement in almost every aspect, particularly infrastructure. For instance, the transportation, the buses used to transport the pilgrims, were comfortable," the minister said.
        Indonesia sent 170,032 pilgrims, consisting of 154,546 regular pilgrims and 13,566 special pilgrims, plus 1,920 officers for the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
         Anggito Abimanyu, the Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry's Director General for Hajj and Umrah (minor Hajj) affairs, said in Mecca recently that Indonesia met 99 percent of the total Hajj quota allotted to it by the Saudi Arabian government, with just 639 seats  remaining unclaimed for this year's pilgrimage.
         "Ninety-nine percent of the total quota of Hajj pilgrims, minus the (earlier) 20 percent reduction, has been met," the director general was quoted as saying on the Cabinet Secretariat's website.
           Initially, Indonesia had been allotted a quota of 196,419 regular Hajj pilgrims. However, the number was slashed by 20 percent to 157,070 by the Saudi government due to the renovation of
Al-Haram Grand Mosque in Mecca. 
       This year, only 0.4 percent of the regular Hajj quota allotted to Indonesia remained unfulfilled, compared to 0.9 percent (or, 1,703 seats) last year, he added. The quota for special Hajj pilgrims this
year was 13,600, though 36 slots remained unclaimed.
         "So, the quota fulfillment this year was better than last year," the official said.
         As of October 24, 149 Indonesians died while performing the pilgrimage, a significant drop from 282 last year. Some 132 others were hospitalized in Saudi hospitals.
         Another service considered satisfactory was the food provided by catering companies in Saudi Arabia. According to Akhmad Jauhari, the head of Indonesia's pilgrimage team in Madinah, the satisfaction index in food rose to 81 percent from last year's 80 percent. 
   "The satisfaction index should increase further next year. Complaints about food should be responded to positively," the minister stated.
         Also, the satisfaction index for local transportation services in Madinah increased to 83 from 80 last year.
          Minister Ali stated that in the future, all services and arrangements should be better than this year. And one of the priorities for improvement is on-time performance (OTP) of international flights from Jakarta and Saudi Arabia.
        The on time performance of Indonesia's flag carrier Garuda in serving this year's Hajj pilgrim is 93.7 percent and Saudi Airlines is 90.7 percent, representing a decrease from 94 percent by Garuda and 95 percent by Saudi Airlines last year.
         On the sidelines of the religious ritual, Minister Suryadharma Ali held a meeting with Turkish President of Religious Affairs Prof Mehmet Gormez in Saudi to explore cooperation in religious affairs and Hajj management.
          "We just met Prof Dr Mehmet Gormez, the president of religious affairs of Turkey, to discuss Hajj management in Turkey and Indonesia," Minister Ali said after the meeting.
         The two officials also exchanged experiences in managing minor Hajj (umroh) implementation and invited each other to visit their respective countries.
        "Our delegation will come to Jakarta to initiate cooperation. believe the Saudi Arabian Hajj affairs ministry would also be happy with our cooperation," he said.
        Turkey sees Indonesia as a special nation because it has the world's largest Muslim population and largest number of Hajj pilgrims.   Turkey sends the world's fifth largest number of Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, after Indonesia, Pakistan, and Malaysia.
         This year, Turkey sent 59,200 would-be Hajj pilgrims after a 20-percent cut due to the renovation of Al Haram Mosque. Around 14 thousand Turks could not attend the Hajj after the quota was reduced by the
Saudi government.
         Pakistan has also expressed interest in establishing cooperation in Hajj pilgrimage arrangements with Indonesia. 
     Minister Ali also held a meeting with Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Jidda recently. In the meeting, he urged the OIC to support the country's request for an
increase in the Hajj quota.
         Indonesia hopes the Saudi government will increase the Hajj quota from 211 thousand pilgrims to 240 thousand.
         An increase in the quota is necessary to shorten the waiting list of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims - an Indonesian Muslim currently has to wait up to 15 years before he or she can finally go to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.
          "In the meeting, he (the OIC Secretary General) promised to help rectify the quota," noted the minister, who was also the Amirul Hajj (Hajj Leader) of Indonesian pilgrims during the 2013 Hajj pilgrimage season.
         The decision on the Hajj quota for each country, however, is in the hands of the Saudi government, he added.
         Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, with a total population of over 245 million.
         At present, the quota ratio stands at one person per one thousand Muslims. But, due to the ongoing renovation of Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca, the Saudi government cut 20 percent of the quota for each country. 
    For better implementation of the pilgrimage, the Indonesian Hajj Pilgrimage Organizing Committee has urged the installation of road signs in Bahasa Indonesia around Haram Mosque.
        Due to the ongoing renovation, roads around Haram Mosque have become narrower and directions to the mosque are complicated, said Ahmad Kartono, the director of Hajj and umroh (minor Hajj) affairs at
the religious affairs ministry.
         Because of the renovation, some routes have been diverted and it  is quite confusing, even for officers who are familiar with the area, he added.
         Road signs would be helpful to Indonesian hajj pilgrims, who are mostly first-time visitors to Haram Mosque, he noted.
         Indonesia hopes that the Saudi government would make announcements in Bahasa, Indonesia because Indonesia sends the highest number of Hajj pilgrims annually.

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