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 coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

Updated 15 August 2020

India coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

  • India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases
  • Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed

MUMBAI: India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have crossed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours.
India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036. The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.
The Health Ministry said the rise shows the extent of testing with 800,000 carried out in a single day. But experts say India needs to pursue testing more vigorously.
India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas.

The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions. Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed.