Economic crisis forces Sri Lankan Muslims to forgo Hajj pilgrimage

Economic crisis forces Sri Lankan Muslims to forgo Hajj pilgrimage
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Colombo, June 1: Sri Lankan Muslims have decided to forgo the Hajj pilgrimage this year due to the worst economic crisis facing the debt-ridden country, a media report said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia had approved a quota of 1,585 Hajj pilgrims from Sri Lanka for the year 2022, out of the one million foreign and domestic Muslims allowed to travel to the holy city of Makkah in the pilgrimage season, the Arab News reported.

However, it was decided that no Muslim from Sri Lanka would travel for the pilgrimage this time, following a discussion held by several parties including the National Haj Committee, Haj Tour Operators Association of Sri Lanka, and the Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs Department.

When going through the prevailing situation and the suffering the people are undergoing in our mother Lanka, members of both associations decided to sacrifice this year's Haj, said a letter directed to the Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs Department by the All-Ceylon Haj Tour Operators Association and Hajj Tour Operators Association of Sri Lanka.

Haj Tour Operators Association President RizmiReyal, meanwhile, said the decision by operators was unanimous due to the severe dollar crisis facing the country .

Sri Lanka has been facing the worst economic crisis since its Independence from Britain in 1948, partly due to lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

The whole Hajj operation of Sri Lankan pilgrims will cost around USD 10 million, which is a big amount compared with the current economic situation of the country, said AhkamUwais, chairman of the National Hajj Committee under Sri Lanka's Department of Muslim Religious Affairs.

The decision to forgo this year's Hajj is a generous gesture by members of the Muslim community to sacrifice their pilgrimage for the sake of the country, he added.

Muslims make up almost 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's 22 million -- predominantly Buddhist -- population.

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