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Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK organizes a Hajj Reception for the returnee Hajjis

Congratulating the returnee Hajj pilgrims, Lord Phil Hunt (former health minister) and Lord Nazir Ahmed assured of their utmost help and support into welfare and well being of British pilgrims. They were addressing the Hajj reception held by the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK in Birmingham, in honour of the pilgrims who have performed Hajj this year.

''I greatly appreciate the efforts made by the Association of British Hujjaj to facilitate Hajj and Umra arrangements for the British pilgrims. Meningitis and Health awareness campaign organized by the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK proved to be an enormous success and also the National Hajj Umra Health and Safety Awareness Week which was launched prior to this year Hajj at House of Lords London, in presence of ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of a number of prominent Muslim countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had a great impact on governmental and various other circles to increase their support and cooperation into the welfare and well being of British pilgrims''. Said Lord Phil hunt

Congratulating the pilgrims, Lord Nazir Ahmed commended the Association of British Hujjaj's efforts for holding the reception to welcome the Hajjis on their return from Hajj. He said, ''we are pleased and appreciate that the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK has organized such events in the UK. These events help to create peace, harmony in the community and give us an opportunity to show our love and affection to those who had the honour to be guest of Allah (S.W.T). He complimented and expressed thanks to the government of Saudi Arabia for their administration to look after the Hajjis during the Hajj. He also thanked Lord Hunt for attending the event and emphasized on the Muslim community to value such a caring and helpful friend of the community''.

Khalid Pervez, the general secretary of the Association, congratulated the pilgrims and said, ''we feel honoured to host this reception and welcome you all who have performed Hajj this year. He assured that the Association of British Hujjaj will make every effort to facilitate Hajj & Umra arrangements for guests of Allah (S.W.T)''. He continued ''the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK is working hard to help British pilgrims by increasing awareness of health and safety issues and to enable them to perform pilgrimage in a safe and best possible manner''. He said, ''the tragic death of over 20 British pilgrims, after contracting Meningitis during the Hajj in recent years in the United Kingdom is a great concern to us all. Feeling the pain of this tragedy, we are now working closely with the Department of Health to address this issue seriously to protect loss of innocent human lives''. He strongly urged the prospective Hajj Umra pilgrims to take care of their health and safety seriously. It is vital that they should get educational training of all aspects of Hajj & Umra before leaving for Saudi Arabia to perform a trouble free Hajj & Umra''.

Choudry Arif Mahmood, Pakistan consulate in Birmingham, in his address congratulated the pilgrims and urged them to bring a change in their life styles and they should present themselves as role models in the community.

Sultana Mahr, a well known writer and scholar, said that performing of Hajj teaches us moral, social and ethical values and these should remain intact after returning from Hajj and for the rest of our lives.

Dr. Sajjad Khatak, Dr. Syed Raza Hussain, Dr. Rasheed Bhatti and Dr. Azhar Sheikh, the members of the executive committee of the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK, also addressed and congratulated the pilgrims.

Maulana Munawar Mashahdi, a well known religious scholar presided this event and it was conducted by Maulana Sarfraz Madni. Javed Aziz, the chairman of the Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK, thanked all the guests at the end.

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HAJJ AWARENESS WEEK LAUNCHED

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The National Hajj Awareness Week from 13th to 20th December, 2004, was launched by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Patron of the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) at the House of Lords, London, on 13th December. The Association of British Hujjaj is a national charity and the only Hajj specific organisation in the country. The overall aim of this awareness week is to provide up-to-date, practical advice and training to enable pilgrims to perform a safe Hajj by identifying health and safety risks and devise strategies to minimize risks - both at the national and the international level.
The basic aim is to yet again initiate the launch of the awareness campaign against meningitis - both at the national and the international level. The ABH is specifically committed to create awareness in the public regarding health and safety issues- especially amongst those wishing to undertake Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The basic aim is to yet again initiate the launch of the awareness campaign against meningitis - both at the national and the international level. The ABH is specifically committed to create awareness in the public regarding health and safety issues- especially amongst those wishing to undertake Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The launching ceremony was attended by diplomats, community leaders, TV and media journalists including Lord Hunt, former Minister of Health, Ambassador Ferej Alowedi, Deputy Head of Mission, Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Pengiran Haji Yunus, High Commissioner of Brunei Darussalam, Haji Salim Moosa, Grand Mufti of Albania, representatives from the Syrian and Egyptian embassies.

While launching the ceremony, Lord Ahmed thankfully acknowledged the excellent facilities provided by the government of Saudi Arabia to more than two million Hajjis every year during Hajj. "The Saudi authorities provide food, water and sanitation to everyone of these huge number of people."

Appreciating the role played by Saudi philanthropists during Hajj, Lord Ahmed said, "A friend of mine, Sheikh Al-Amoudi provides half a million breakfast, dinner and lunch to more than 500,000 Hajjis on the Arafat day."

Explaining the objectives of this Hajj Awareness Week campaign, Lord Ahmed said, "We are trying to create awareness among the Hujjaj about the facilities they have and the difficulties they may face."

Talking about the accident at Jamarat, Lord Ahmad explained the reasons saying, "Many of our people are ignorant and became panic because they have never seen such a huge crowd. There are, of course, many who are not considerate and do not look at the direction sign placed by the Saudi government. The traffic coming back from the other direction will cause accident."

"We create problems at the Jamarat and we, Muslims, are blamed for this. Saudi government is blamed for this. But who are responsible for this? It is we people who do not follow the direction. The whole idea of awareness week is to prepare the Hujjaj so that they know where and what they have to go to do certain things and how this Hajj can be performed smoothly and easily," Lord Ahmed added.

Lord Ahmed said, "Patience is the virtue of Hajj. If you have no patience, then you will disturb and distract others and thereby damage other people's lifetime experience."

Praising the facilities provided by the UK government, Lord Ahmad said, "Britain is the only Western European country which has facilities for the Hujjaj; even the US does not have the same facilities as the UK have in Arafat, Muzdalifah, Mina and Makkah. Of course, this is possible with the coordination and support from the government of Saudi Arabia."

While expressing his gratefulness to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary and thanking the government for arranging proper funding for the Hajj this year, Lord Ahmed suggested to "have a permanent Hajj office in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." He also said, "It is good to have some extra funding, but the core funding should come from FCO."

We are mobilising the whole health ministry; from the highways to the Hajj sites, Hujjaj will find all the ways hospitals, vaccines and medicines. In every hospital, there are religious people who will advice Hujjaj.

Lord Ahmed also suggested to "have proper educational training for the British Hujjaj. There should be a continuous educational programme and training for the British Hujjaj."

The next speaker was Haji Salim Moosa, Grand Mufti of Albania, who informed the gathering that for 40 years Muslims were prohibited from going for Hajj. The first time we were able to go for Hajj was in 1991, when 300 Muslims went for Hajj at the invitation of the Saudi King. In the next year, in 1992, another 300 Hajjis were invited by the King to perform Hajj. From 1993, Muslim community of Albania arranged for themselves. This year about 200 Hajjis are going to perform Hajj.

Speaking about the new development and facilities provided by the government of Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Ferej Alowedi, said, "We are happy to host and serve more than two million Hajjis coming from outside and the same number from inside Saudi Arabia. The total will be something like five million. But this is not a big problem, if they are scattered throughout Saudi Arabia. The problem is: it is in a very small place in a specified time and carry out special duties at the same minute. That's a very difficult task."

Speaking about few accidents happened in the past, Ambassador Alowedi said. "We would like to tell you how Saudi Arabia managed to minimize those type of accidents. Saudi Arabia spent one billion to do research and built new special tents to resist fire. These tents are fitted with air-conditioning to give comfort to all Hajjis."

He also informed, "Saudi Arabia has established fountains to cool the air and planted thousands and thousands of trees in the desert to act as shades for Hajjis to perform their duties at ease."

Referring to the accident occurred at Jamarat last year, he said, "Stoning should be done from two levels at Jamarat. We put signs in all languages to ask pilgrimage to follow the directions. We are advising people to come back after performing stoning, but every year people do not listen to this."

While describing Meningitis as one of the most notorious killer diseases, Dr. Syed Reza Hussain opened the Meningitis awareness campaign simultaneously and advised the Hujjaj to take a special meningitis vaccine available through the usual channels and is mandatory requirement for the Hajj visa issuance by the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Speaking about health, he said, "We are mobilising the whole health ministry; from the highways to the Hajj sites, Hujjaj will find all the ways hospitals, vaccines and medicines. In every hospital, there are religious people who will advice Hujjaj."

About sacrifices, Ambassador Alowedi said, "There are around 4/5 million sacrifices of animals every year. Saudi Arabia develops a project to storage it and then distribute the meat of these sacrifices to poor Muslim countries." Saudi Arabia also encourages people to put sadaqa in Mina. "There are packages of meals distributed in every corner of Arafat and Mina free of charge. There is at every few metres a caravan of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques distributing food and water free of charge, besides the fountains and other things which are available there."

The Ambassador suggested, "Every Muslim country should send their own health mission to look after their own people in spite of the fact that there are big hospitals in Arafat, Mina and Makkah equipped with most modern equipments. We still need health missions to be in the tents. People from their own country will coordinate their activities with our hospital efforts and their own people; to pick up the medicines or anything missing in their small clinics; and to talk with their people in their own languages."

As regards Visa, Alowedi said, "Saudi Arabia does not charge visa fee from anybody. It is free of charge."

While describing Meningitis as one of the most notorious killer diseases, Dr. Syed Reza Hussain opened the Meningitis awareness campaign simultaneously and advised the Hujjaj to take a special meningitis vaccine available through the usual channels and is mandatory requirement for the Hajj visa issuance by the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

In concluding the meeting, Lord Ahmad suggested to establish a consulate in Manchester and Bradford in recognition of the increasing number of Hujjaj from Britain. In reply to that, the Ambassador said, "We are in the process to open a consulate in Ireland."

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Exploitation and Oppression of British Hajj Travellers Must Be Brought to an End

To:  The Government Departments

- FCO
- Home Office
- DTI
- MPs
- Members of House of Lords

We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the treatment of over 50,000 British citizens who travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj & Umrah every year. Many travellers experience extreme hardship, mental anguish at the hands of some tour operators and travel agents who through their ‘practices’ exploit the would-be pilgrims both financially and mentally.

Some typical examples in relation to Hajj 2006 have been as follows:

1. Hajj tour operators who have been ‘blacklisted’ by Saudi authorities’ duped pilgrims into believing they were legitimate and obtained their money dishonestly. They then became elusive and abandoned the pilgrims leaving out of pocket and unable to arrange their documentation in time for their Hajj journey.
2. Some of the authorised tour operators exploited those affected Hajj pilgrims and sold Hajj visas that were meant to be free of cost at extortionate prices.
3. Hajj tour operators/travel agents sold travel tickets to Saudi Arabia at premium prices and some instance nearly doubled the cost.
4. Some Hajj tour operators/travel agents did not provide the quality services i.e. accommodation, transport and other amenities during the Hajj period as promised by them.

The examples as above and the practices of the tour operators/travel agents at the time when pilgrims are vulnerable and most eager to travel to complete a journey of a lifetime are deplorable. These people should be investigated and held accountable of their dishonest actions. This behaviour is reprehensible and has no place in a civilised society such as ours in UK.

The relevant government departments and Law Enforcement agencies must respond adequately to protect the Human Rights of its citizens in this respect.

We strongly urge the government to take a robust stance in this situation and that decisive action must be taken (together with the Saudi Authorities) to help eradicate the malpractices and oppression of innocent British Citizens.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

View Current Signatures

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British overseas travellers warned about health hazards

The Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK (A.B.H) launched its pre-travel health & safety campaign to raise awareness amongst British overseas travellers. Senior doctors from A.B.H expressed their extreme concern about the wide spread ignorance amongst overseas travellers of the necessity of taking Health & Safety precautions before and during their visit. A substantial number of these travellers do not take the vaccinations required, and that they are risking their health by not taking the proper preventative measures against the diseases like Meningitis, Malaria and Hepatitis which are potentially life-threatening.

Many cases of Meningitis, Malaria and Hepatitis have been diagnosed in the UK travellers in recent years and deaths from malaria doubled from 2002 to 2003 amongst these travellers. The senior doctors have warned specifically those who plan to travel during this summer holiday season to Saudi Arabia and South Asian countries i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh to take appropriate precautions to minimise their exposure to health hazards. The lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities in these developing countries is a major cause of concern.
“We strongly urge the travellers to speak to their GP, practice nurse or travel clinic up to eight weeks before travelling to get the best advice on protection”, said the doctors in their joint statement.

The Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK is a charitable National organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of the British overseas travellers including Hajj &Umrah pilgrims.

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British Muslim doctors and community organisations denounce all acts of terrorism

A meeting was held to discuss the recent horrific events that took place in Glasgow airport and London city centre, The Association of British Hujjaj (pilgrims) UK a charitable National organisation along with other British Muslim doctors associations including British Muslim Doctors Association UK, Pakistan Medical Society, Birmingham UK, Nishtarian doctors Society UK, King Edward Medical College Alumni Association of the UK (KEMCA UK) strongly condemned these acts of terrorism which are un-Islamic and totally personal act, because Islam preaches peace, harmony, law and respect for all religions and individual. 

These events sent a shockwave across the Muslim community throughout the country. There is absolutely no justification for such brutal act of killing or inflicting harm on innocent people. We strongly urge all the law abiding citizens regardless of their ethnic origins, colour and creed that they should extend their full co-operation to Law Enforcement authorities to ensure these atrocious acts do not occur again.

The Community strongly believes that their values must also be protected so they can live in peace and harmony in this multicultural and multi-faith society.

The British Muslim Community highly appreciates the stance taken by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the government during this crisis. We assure the government of our full support in every step they take to achieve the desired objectives.

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Hajj & Umrah Tour Operators/Travel Agents’ Responsibilities,
Rights of Pilgrims and the UK Law

By Trading Standards Department

The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 sets out the responsibilities that travel organisers and retailers (Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents) have towards their customers (pilgrims) and what rights consumers have under the legislation.

Before the contract is concluded the Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents must provide the consumer (prospective pilgrims) with the following information in writing or some other appropriate form-

  • General information about passport visa requirements
  • Information about health formalities
  • Security and repatriation arrangements in the event of insolvenc

Before the start of the journey Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents must provide-

  • Times and places of stops and transport connections and places to be occupied by the traveller
  • Contact details of a local representative or the other party to the contract in the area where the prospective pilgrims are to stay or a local agency if there is no representative
  • Information about insurance that the consumer can take out to cover the cost of cancellation, including repatriation in the event of accident or illness (if this is not already required by the contract).

These are legal requirements and if this information is not provided then there may be a criminal offence. Under these Regulations consumers (pilgrims) should contact their local Trading Standards service for further assistance on this matter.

Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents should not supply any misleading or descriptive material to pilgrims regarding the package price or any other conditions applying to the contract.  If they do they are liable for any loss which the consumer suffers.
The consumer must be given a written copy of a contract for the package booked.  This contract should contain at least the following information-

  • Destination and date
  • Transport-means, times, dates and places
  • Accommodation details
  • Itinerary
  • Visits or other services included
  • Details of the Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents and insurer (where appropriate)
  • Minimum number of people for package to go ahead and deadline for cancellation
  • The price and any term regarding revisions, payment details
  • Special requirements of the consumer, period for making complaints.

If the organiser makes significant changes to the contract before the departure the consumer needs to be notified as soon as possible and be able to withdraw form the contract without penalty.  Where the consumer withdraws due to significant changes or where the organiser has to cancel the contract the consumer is entitled to-

  • A substitute package of equivalent or superior quality if available
  • A substitute package of lower quality plus the difference in price if available
  • A refund

A consumer may institute a civil case if the above hasn’t been complied with. It is recommended that you contact your local citizens advice service for further guidance on this matter. 

Your local Trading Standards authority may consider instituting legal proceedings against the company however consumers must be aware that this does not grant them with any recompense.

Before you book a Hajj & Umrah package it is advisable that you:

Read the company’s Hajj & Umrah package literature carefully.  The pilgrimage is covered by many tour operators, so compare prices and check what each company is offering.

It is sensible to get insurance to cover your holiday, including cancellation, illness or injury and loss or theft of your belongings.  Make sure you check what the insurance does and does not cover.

Make sure the company is a member of ABTA, AITO, ATOL or IATA.  This can be done by going onto the associations’ website and inputting the company’s details.  If things do go wrong then you are in a much better position if the company belongs to one of these organisations.

For further information on these Regulations or if you have any questions about the Hajj & Umrah packages then please contact your local Trading Standards Service via consumer direct on 08454 04 05 06. The information in this article is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.

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FCO, DTI & ABTA’S RESPONSE TO A.B.H PETITION

Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett MP
DTI Minister Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA

The Secretary of State for Foreign Office (FCO) Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP has assured the British Hajj Pilgrims that they are aware of the problems that the practices of some Hajj tour operators are creating for pilgrims performing the Hajj. FCO officials have been meeting with the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and other government officials to see how this industry can be further regulated.

Pilgrims should contact their local Trading Standards offices for advice on how to take their complaints forward. The advice is now included in the dedicated Hajj section on the FCO website. The individuals could also contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

Not all Hajj organisers hold current ATOLs and some outfits may even claim they hold this license when they don’t. This is against the law. We urged pilgrims to buy flights through ATOL licensed tour operators to ensure they are properly protected.

DTI Minister Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP
also assured that DTI officials are in regular discussion with officials from FCO, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Trading Standards Institute. These discussions are centering on how to improve the current situation.

All business in the UK who organise air packages are required to hold a current Air Tour Operators Licence (ATOL) and those who do not are operating illegally. The CAA hold details of all current ATOL holders and pilgrims can check whether an operator holds a licence on-line at www.caa.co.uk. In the meantime, DTI officials remain in dialogue with their government colleagues in order to progress further initiatives in this area.

The Chief Executive of The Association of British Travel Agents Ltd (ABTA) Mark Tanzer also stressed that the majority of Hajj & Umrah trips are booked through non-ABTA tour operators within the Muslim community. Unfortunately, the majority of these companies are potentially breaking UK law as they do not have Air Tour Operators Licences.

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