Nearly 1,500 Muslims in Italy cancel Hajj plan

Muslims from several nationalities pray near the Colosseum in Rome. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Nearly 1,500 Muslims in Italy cancel Hajj plan

  • Italian Muslims will now have to cancel their pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow only a limited number of pilgrims to perform Hajj
  • Dr. Mohammed Ashash: I am sorry I will not make it this year, but as a doctor myself, I couldn't agree more with the decision of Saudi authorities

ROME: This year, nearly 1,500 Muslims from several nationalities living in Italy will have to cancel their trip to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

Most of them had booked their flight tickets and hotels last year, but they will now have to cancel their pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow only a limited number of pilgrims to perform Hajj this year due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Last year, nearly 3,000 people traveled from Italy to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah,” said Salah Ahmed Ibrahim, owner of Tour Magazine, a Rome-based travel agency that has organized pilgrimages for Italian Muslims for 40 years.

“Trips such as these are organized a year in advance. Before the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 were announced, we had already booked 1,500 travelers. Now, we will have to contact them and arrange refunds for plane tickets, transfers and hotels,” Ibrahim told Arab News.

“It will be an incredible loss and a huge disappointment to our pilgrims. Some of them have been waiting several years to make the trip. I have already spoken to a few. At first, they were upset and disappointed, but in the end, they understood,” he said.

Ibrahim said that the announcement by Saudi authorities limiting the number of pilgrims to 1,000 individuals already present in the country was news he had “been waiting for.”

“We already saw signs back in April, when we were asked not to make any commitments to customers. But we already had reservations for 2020 that had been booked a year ago. For many people, Hajj is the dream of a lifetime, a unique opportunity,” he explained.

“I am disappointed and very sorry, of course. But what can we do?” said Mohammed Ashash, 39, a doctor from Pakistan who has been living and working in Italy for nearly 20 years.

“Performing Hajj has been my desire for many years. I had booked my trip back in October. I am sorry I will not make it this year, but as a doctor myself, I couldn't agree more with the decision of Saudi authorities. Health safety is paramount. Risk of contagion must be contained. We have seen how deadly this virus can be. I believe that restricting access to pilgrims this year is a wise choice. Quite frankly, nothing else could be done,” Ashash said.

“Human life is sacred and must be preserved. With the help of Allah, when this pandemic ends and we are all once again able to resume our ordinary lives, I will hopefully perform Umrah and Hajj,” he said.


India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

Updated 14 min 21 sec ago

India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

  • Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May
  • The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley

NEW DELHI: India’s external affairs minister said Saturday that Indian and Chinese troops are disengaging from a monthslong standoff along the countries’ undemarcated border following a clash last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s remarks came a day after China’s ambassador to India said that Indian and Chinese front-line troops are disengaging in accordance with an agreement reached by their military commanders.
“It’s very much a work in progress,” Jaishankar said, adding that both sides agreed on the need to disengage because troops are deployed very close to each other.
The Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, said Friday that the two countries should be partners rather than rivals and handle their differences properly to bring their ties back on the right track.
Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh.
The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China. India says that 20 of its soldiers were killed in the June 15 clash and that there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.
China hasn’t confirmed any casualties on its side.
Through video conferencing on Friday, senior foreign ministry officials from the two countries reviewed the progress made in the disengagement process by the two armies at the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control.
The disputed border covers about 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier and stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.
India and China fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.