Lord Nazir Ahmed has called upon both British and Saudi governments to take steps to ensure health and safety of Hajj pilgrims and repeated his demand for sending a Hajj delegation to Saudi Arabia on the eve of Hajj this year.
He was speaking at the launching of Hajj and Umrah Health and Safety awareness week at the House of Lords held under the auspices of Association of British Hajjis UK the other day. He said during the tenure of Labour government a doctors’ delegation was sent at the government’s expenses but due to budget cuts the government has not yet announced to send such a delegation this year while the health and safety of Hajjis is the responsibility of the government.
He said Hajj delegation would have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds of the NHS while it would have contributed towards communal harmony as well. He reminded that health advice issued by the Saudi government for vaccination and other necessary precautions should be strictly followed. This orientation week would ensure necessary information to those departing on this great sacred journey he said and suggested that such programmes should also be introduced in all mosques across the UK.
Lord Nazir noted that Saudi Arab is a leading oil producer but the condition of bathrooms there is very substandard. During the last ten days of Ramadan and Hajj hotel and other service charges shoot up tremendously. This needs to be checked and controlled so that the low income group could also perform this religious obligation. He said some people get Hajj booking without proper thinking because of which the Hajj tour operators charge them higher rates.
He advised the people not to be impressed by colourful advertisements and be careful of bogus tour operators and travel agents.
Deputy leader in the House of Lords, Lord Phil Hunt said that the Hajj delegation also sent a positive message to other communities too and it is deplorable that decision has not been taken about it as yet as the Hajjis would be facing problems in its absence. Referring to the orientation programme, he said that the ABH has done commendable work as it has benefitted thousands of people in performing this religious obligation with content.
MP John Hemming MP said although the government has been facing financial problems yet sending of Hajj delegation is necessary in view of the health and safety of the pilgrims.
MP Anas Sarwar said the Hajjis should embark upon their journey with full preparation.
MP Yasmin Qureshi said that earlier, Hajjis suffered problems such as stampede and falling on the ground in throwing stones at Satans but such incident have become very rare thanks to measures taken by the Saudi government. Referring to the price hike she said that it seemed that now only well off could be able to perform Hajj. There is a lot of difference in meningitis inoculation charges she lamented and asked to address these points. She called for launching a campaign to restore Hajj delegation.
General Secretary ABH Khalid Pervez said that his organisation has been looking after the interest of Hajjis since 1998 and arranging seminars and conferences and distributing pamphlets and leaflets to guide the intending pilgrims round the year. During the tenure of Labour government sending of Hajj delegation was started thanks to the efforts made by his organization which is now struggling to resume this practice once again. Besides, it has filed a petition with the cooperation of Lord Nazir, Lord Bent and others to save Hajjis from the clutches of bogus tour operators.
Dr Rashid Bhatti said around 25000 Hajjis from the UK would perform Hajj this year and advised the TB and Hepatitis patients intending to perform Hajj should complete their treatment before leaving so that other people could not catch these diseases from them. He also laid stress on them to get themselves vaccinated for meningitis, flue and hepatitis B. Those suffering from some heart disease or diabetes should get their complete check up and keep necessary medicines with them. It is necessary to carry out physical exercise 10 days before running between Safa and Marwa he advised. They should take care of personal cleanliness and hygiene and use balanced food.
Dr Syed Raza Hussain said that meningitis is a lethal diseases that had taken lives of 20 Hajjis last year, therefore the Hajjis should get their complete medical check so that if found suffering from any such disease they could timely treatment.
Consul General for Pakistan in Birmingham Dr Saeed Khan also addressed the function. Nazir Ali of Trading Standard Service Centre at Tower Hemlet borough spoke on consumers and traders’ duties and responsibilities. Batool Al-Toma from New Muslim Project spoke on women and Hajj. Qaisra M. Khan briefed about an exhibition to be held in January under the auspices of British Museum. Dr Shabana Subhan Begum presented her research paper over Hajj to Lord Nazir Ahmed. Earlier, plank of the Hajj and Umrah Health and Safety week was unveiled. Community services awards were given to Sheikh Sarbuland and Dr. Mozammel Haque. Chair of the organization Javed Aziz thanked the participants while Mr. Ibrahim -First Secretary, Saudi Embassy London was also attended the launch.