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Jakarta Post

Malaysia pulls out of Mecca pilgrimage due to virus

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Kuala Lumpur   /   Thu, June 11, 2020   /   08:00 pm
Malaysia pulls out of Mecca pilgrimage due to virus This picture taken early on May 24, 2020 shows worshippers gathering before the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca to attend the prayers of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday which starts at the conclusion of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (AFP/-)

Malaysia on Thursday pulled out of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca over coronavirus fears days after neighbouring Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, also withdrew.

Millions travel from around the world to Saudi Arabia every year to perform the haj, a ritual that every Muslim must do once in their lives if able.

The virus pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 people worldwide, has thrown the end-of-July celebration into doubt, although Riyadh is yet to announce a decision on whether it will proceed.

Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said it was not safe for the 31,600 pilgrims from Malaysia who had been due to go this year to take part due to the virus.

"This was a heavy decision to make," he said, adding that those affected would be able to go on the haj next year instead.

In Malaysia, a country of 32 million where about 60 percent are Muslims, the devout typically wait for years for the opportunity to perform the haj.

Jakarta's decision last week to withdraw removed the largest contingent of pilgrims -- more than 220,000 Indonesians had been due to take part.

Malaysia's virus outbreak has been relatively mild, with authorities reporting more than 8,000 cases and 118 deaths.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia has seen over 112,000 infections and 819 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

It has already suspended the year-round "umrah" pilgrimage to Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.