Malaysia cancels Hajj for this year amid pandemic

Malaysian Hajj pilgrims gather in training days before their departure for Saudi Arabia in this June 30, 2018 file photo. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 June 2020

Malaysia cancels Hajj for this year amid pandemic

  • Hajj was postponed on account of the safety, health and well-being of Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not sending Hajj pilgrims to Makkah this year in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Hajj starts around July  28 and the country was due to send about 31,600 pilgrims.

The decision to cancel was based on consultations with the Health Ministry of Malaysia and the Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims’ Fund Board (Tabung Haji), as well as with members of a special meeting of the Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia that took place on June 9.

“The pilgrimage for all Malaysians for the Hajj season of Hijrah 1441 is postponed to next year,” Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, a minister in the prime minister’s office, said on Thursday at a press conference.

Al-Bakri said that the Hajj postponement to 2021 was made after taking into consideration the safety, health and well-being of Malaysians. Those with a furada visa —  a Hajj visa obtained directly from Saudi Arabia’s embassy — were also not allowed to go for Hajj this year.

BACKGROUND

The pandemic has caused a serious global health crisis. Coronavirus has infected 7.4 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 418,000 deaths. Malaysia has taken strict measures in curbing the spread of coronavirus, including enacting the Movement Control Order since March 16 and conducting mass testings for COVID-19 among migrant workers and refugees.

The pandemic has caused a serious global health crisis. Coronavirus has infected 7.4 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 418,000 deaths.

“Yesterday I invited and met with the Saudi Ambassador to Malaysia and handed the official letter of Hajj postponement for Malaysia to be presented to Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten, minister of Hajj and Umrah for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Malaysia has followed its Southeast Asia neighbors Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei in canceling the Hajj pilgrimage for this year.

Malaysia has taken strict measures in curbing the spread of coronavirus, including enacting the Movement Control Order since March 16 and conducting mass testings for COVID-19 among migrant workers and refugees.

As a result Malaysia has managed to reduce new cases. It currently has a total of 8,369 cases, of which 7,065 have recovered.

Malaysia has gradually allowed most businesses and places of worship, including mosques, to open with strict observations of social distancing measures and guidelines.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.