Indonesian Legislature Rejects Call for Hajj Moratorium i

Hajj pilgrims gather before evening prayer at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 6:07 PM June 12, 2014
Category : News, Featured, Corruption, Religion

Jakarta. Indonesia's House of Representatives on Thursday rejected a call for a moratorium on hajj registration, saying that over-registration as reason for a halt was unjustified and that a solution should be pursued.

The discussion of a possible moratorium came up after Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali's resignation to face graft charges connected to his management of the country's hajj fund. Suryadharma remains the head of the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP).

More than 200,000 Indonesians make the trip to visit holy sites in Saudi Arabia each year — a mammoth logistical challenge that falls under the purview of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Saudi Arabia decides how many pilgrims each country can send each year. Indonesia, as the country with the largest Muslim population, gets the most spots, but still not nearly enough to meet demand.

“The Religious Affairs Minister should review the policy because this is related to worship," House Committee VIII member Hazrul Azwar — head of the PPP's contingent in the House —  said on Thursday, as reported by state-run Antara news agency. "Don’t make the high number of registrations for the hajj pilgrimage a reason to prevent people from going on the hajj pilgrimage. The problem related to the high number of registrations can surely be solved."

Committee VIII oversees religious affairs.

“People who want to do the hajj pilgrimage have to pay the money first," Hazrul said. "That’s indication of their good will. If they die before performing the hajj pilgrimage, according to Shariah, their intention is fulfilled. If they’re banned, they cannot not fulfill their intention.”

At present, more than 2 million Indonesians have registered and paid for their pilgrimages, but some will have to wait 10 years for their chance to go.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has called for a temporary freeze in registration to protect the investments of future pilgrims as an embezzlement investigations progresses.

"A hajj moratorium is not a relevant [solution]," Golkar Party lawmaker T.B. Ace Hasan Syadzly said. "Will it make hajj management better?”

He said the ministry should move to require full transparency in the management of the hajj fund

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