Thousands of Indonesian Muslims are currently on a waiting list of up to 25 years for making the Hajj pilgrimage, owing to the quota restrictions set by the Saudi government so far.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian government has highly appreciated the Saudi Arabian government for an increase of the formers hajj pilgrims quota to 211,000 in 2017 from 168,800 last year.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said the increase in hajj quota was a follow up to his visit to Saudi Arabia in September 2015 and his meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Hangzhou, China, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in September 2016.

"As a follow up to the meeting, I instructed the religious affairs minister and the foreign affairs minister to hold follow-up meetings (with their Saudi counterparts)," he explained in a press conference, along with Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Minister/State Secretary Pratikno here on Wednesday.

In response to the follow up meetings, the Saudi government in this case the Hajj and Umrah affairs minister decided to return the Indonesian hajj quota this year to the normal level of 211,000 including an additional quota of 10,000, Jokowi revealed.

The president said since 2013 Indonesia and other countries had seen their quotas cut by 20 percent due to the expansion of facilities at the al-Haram Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Since the renovation work began at the Haram Mosque in Mecca in 2013, Indonesias hajj quota, like those of other countries, has remained reduced by 20 percent from 211,000 to 168,800.

Apart from that, Indonesia also praised the Saudi government for its efforts to improve the quality of its services for hajj pilgrims including those from Indonesia, he said.

The fifth pillar of Islam urges all Muslims (adults)to undertake a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in his/her lifetime.

It is obligatory for every Muslim, regardless of gender, to make the pilgrimage if he/she is physically and financially capable of doing so.

Indonesia is the worlds largest Muslim majority country, with nearly 90 percent of its total population of over 250 million, being Muslims.

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims are currently on a waiting list of up to 25 years for making the Hajj pilgrimage, owing to the quota restrictions set by the Saudi government so far.

Speaking to the press on Saturday (September 17, 2016), the Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin warned, the additional quota will also pose a significant challenge when it comes to making arrangements for accommodation, transportation, including the catering.

In the meantime, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Osama Mohammed Al Shuibi, on Tuesday (Nov. 15) pledged to increase the hajj quota for Indonesia.

"We know that the Haram Mosque in Mecca is undergoing renovation. However, we will increase the hajj quota for Indonesia," Osama Mohammed Al Shuibi said after a meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta on Tuesday (Nov. 15, 2016).

"The quota has been formulated on the basis of the population of Muslims in each country and therefore, these cannot be changed or exchanged for one another," he remarked.

The ambassador also promised to facilitate visas for Indonesian hajj pilgrims.

On the occasion, Osama and Kalla did not address the issue of umrah (minor pilgrimage to Mecca).

On Tuesday (Jan 3), Minister Lukman Hakim and his entourage flew to Saudi Arabia to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Hajj preparation in 2017.

In his meeting in Saudi Arabia, Lukman met with the Saudi Arabian Minister of Hajj affairs and express various matters relating to the cooperation of two countries, especially on the matter of hajj pilgrimage.

The minister then proposed an improvement of the quality of bus at Masyair region (Arafat-Muzdalifah-Mina). The condition of Masyair route has not yet been rehabilitated.

Lukman also expressed the need of emergency post in Mina area, namely along the Jamarat and the provision of a wheelchairs from Mina tents to Jamarat and vice versa.

Additionally, the minister urged the local organizers of the Hajj in Mina to improve services mainly related to the procurement of adequate number of toilets.(*)

Reporter: Bustanuddin
Editor: Heru Purwanto
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