Every year, over 25,000 British Hajj Pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. A substantial number of these Hajj pilgrims suffer hardship and difficulties. In the past there have been tragic incidents where many lives have been lost due to stampedes, traffic accidents and outbreaks of infectious diseases.
After launching the National Hajj/Umrah Health & Safety Awareness Week at the House of Lords, the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) a national Hajj specific voluntary organisation, held a seminar over the weekend where religious scholars, senior doctors and safety experts provided up to date, practical advice and training to prospective Hajj/Umrah pilgrims to enable them to perform Hajj/Umrah in a safe and best possible manner.
Lord Phil Hunt OBE (Deputy Leader of the House and Government Minister) during his address to the prospective pilgrims acknowledged and complimented the work done by ABH since its inception in 1998. He said “much progress has been made due to the Association and the tremendous work it has done; first of all for bringing the attention of government to the issues that have to be faced but secondly its campaign on health and safety awareness amongst many pilgrims.”
Senior doctors from ABH warned the prospective pilgrims that they should safeguard against the additional risks to their health such as Swine flu, Meningitis, Hepatitis and other communicable diseases due to the over crowding at the ceremonies, accommodation sites and public transport. Dr Rashid Bhatti warned about the risk of contracting swine flu that “pilgrims must take the threat very seriously and get vaccinated before leaving for the pilgrimage”. Dr Syed Raza Hussain also advised pilgrims about meningitis which is a life threatening disease. He said, “it is vital that all travellers must get ‘quadrivalent meningococcal’ vaccine (ACWY vac).”
In his presentation, Khalid Pervez (General Secretary of ABH) made the prospective Hajj pilgrims aware of the necessary precautions which they need to make in order to perform a safe Hajj.
Steve McCabe (Member of Parliament), also addressing the participants at this event, said “I find it outrageous that on what should be a profoundly significant event in anyone’s life going on pilgrimage, should be undermined by a small minority of unscrupulous tour operators.” He urged the prospective pilgrims to send their complaints to the local trading standards for further investigation.
Councillor Neil Eustace (Chairman, Public Protection), Councillor Zaker Choudhry (West Midlands Police authority), Police inspector Maskeen Ali (Chairman West Midlands Muslim Police Assoc.) and Chris Roe (Senior Officer, Trading Standards) assured the community that they will make every effort to protect them from the malpractices and illegal activities of the unscrupulous tour and travel operators.
The feedback received from the British Muslim community about this event was tremendously positive. The community appreciated the efforts of ABH UK for bringing this event together and for the support from various government departments towards the welfare and wellbeing of the British Hajj pilgrims.
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