The Jakarta Post
The Religious Affairs Ministry expects the additional haj quota Indonesia has received from Saudi Arabia to cut the waiting time for people on the country’s haj pilgrim list by up to three years.
“The additional quota will likely affect Indonesia’s haj pilgrim waiting list period. If a pilgrim previously had to wait up to 17 years on average to do the haj, he or she may now need to wait 14 years,” said the ministry’s haj management director general, Abdul Djamil, after a hearing with the House of Representatives’ Commission VIII overseeing social and religious affairs on Monday.
Indonesia may be one of the countries with the longest waiting time for haj pilgrims, given its demographic position as the world’s largest Muslim-majority population. In Sidenreng Rappang regency, South Sulawesi, a person can wait up to 39 years to leave for the haj.
This year, Indonesia’s haj quota has returned to the normal figure of 211,000 per year, after it had been cut by 20 percent in 2013 due to the renovation of the Masjidil Haram grand mosque in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian government has also granted an additional 10,000 seats, meaning 221,000 Indonesians can go to Mecca for the pilgrimage, which is required at least once in the life of every able-bodied Muslim.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said the additional quota was given only for Indonesia, because Saudi Arabia considered it a special country.
At the meeting, lawmakers proposed that 10 percent of the total quota go to the elderly of 60 years and above.
“The ministry has noted that around 53,000 elderly pilgrims are on the waiting list. If we give 10 percent of the total quota to them, it means we can send around 20,000 elderly people for haj. That’s only one of the solutions. We should make them wait less, given their old age,” said Commission VIII chairman Ali Taher Parasong of the National Mandate Party (PAN).
Ali also noted that the government should make early preparations, because a higher haj quota meant more personnel and officers should be dispatched to guard Indonesians in Saudi Arabia during the ritual. “We should add more health care and security officers,” Ali said. (ebf)
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