Pay-to-Pray: Is Saudi Arabia Exploiting Hajj 'Taxes' for Profit?

Published June 25th, 2018 - 12:14 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

If you are a Muslim and you want to perform the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj, in Saudi Arabia you have to pay at least $2,000, depending on what country you are coming from. Recently, Saudi Arabia has increased the amount of taxes paid by Muslims who want to enter the kingdom to visit the holy site of Kaaba and perform Hajj in Mecca. 

However, the high costs of the trip and the fact that large portion of the money goes to the Saudi government is leading Muslims all over the world to question whether it is time to 'boycott the Hajj.'  

The Hajj is a 'pillar of Islam',  to be performed by Muslims at least once in their lifetime. However, many Muslims insist on lending money or saving money to perform and complete this spiritual journey.

 

In Tunisia, religious officials and imams were brave enough to call on the grand imam of the country to discourage people from performing this year’s Hajj. They ague that the authorities in Saudi Arabia might use the money in wars or for purchasing weapons, instead of using it for the benefit of poor Muslim countries.

A senior official in the Tunisian Union of Imams, Fadhel Ashour has called Tunisians to boycott the Hajj and spend the money to help the poor in Tunisia instead of giving it to the Saudi authorities. He questioned where Saudi government uses the the large amounts of money paid for Hajj and suggested that it is used to “kill and displace people, as is the case currently in Yemen.”

On social media, several opinions from different parts of the world echoed the same tone calling Muslims to think carefully before paying money for the Saudi authorities.

An Indonesian Muslim user went to wonder how much money the Saudi authorities make from Hajj.

Another user called the Saudi authorities as “the guardians of Kaaba”.

Mohammed Hammami, a Tunisian user has supported the imams of Tunisia opinion as the Hajj is becoming too expensive and the money is used for killing innocents and children in Yemen.

Another user called Muslim countries to take a strict position from Saudi Arabia government and boycott Hajj for this year explaining his point of view.

Translation: “What prevents Muslim countries from taking a strict position and boycott Hajj for this year following the footsteps on the Tunisian imams, taking into account the following reasons: - Increase of Hajj costs. - Paying Hajj revenues to the US. - Using revenues to kill Muslims as in Yemen. - Al Saud [House of Saud] role in helping the Israeli occupation.”

On the other hand, there were users, mostly from Saudi Arabia, defending the Saudi government, saying it bears all costs of Hajj and Kaaba on their own, with the high costs incurred by travel agencies rather than the Saudi government.

Translation: “All costs of projects and operations in Mecca and Madinah to be totally handled by the House of Saud on their own. So you come to Mecca, sleep, enjoy the expansions, drink and eat for free and have the Kaaba being cleaned for four times for free? The money you pay for your travel agencies are for you so you can travel back to your countries. [Hajj is] for whoever is able to find thereto a way.”

There is a percpetion growing in some Muslim countries, that Saudi Arabia is exploiting the custodianship of the two holy mosques (Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina) for its own political purposes.

The latest took place after the Gulf crisis was ignited, when Saudi Arabia closed all borders and banned all flights departing or arriving from Qatar. Several claims were made by both parties on whether banning or allowing Qataris from performing the Hajj. However, Saudi authorities later confirmed they won’t ban anyone from performing Hajj, effectively overlooking the arbitrary measures imposed against those travelling from Qatar.


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