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First batch of haj pilgrims leave for Mecca JAKARTA - The first batch of Indonesian haj pilgrims departed from nine embarkation points across the country for Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, marking the start of the annual ritual that climaxes on the Islamic Day of Sacrifice, which falls next year on Feb. 1. A total of 3,970 people left the country for the pilgrimage on Tuesday, 455 of whom were seen off by Minister of Religious Affairs Said Agil Al-Munawar at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Apart from Jakarta, embarkation points for the pilgrims include Bandung (West Java), Surakarta (Central Java), Surabaya (East Java), Medan (North Sumatra) and Makassar (South Sulawesi). The first batch of pilgrims that departed from Polonia Airport, Medan, comprised 455 people, while in Surabaya the first group consisted of 450 pilgrims. A total of about 205,000 people are registered as haj pilgrims for the 2004 haj season. The last batch will leave for Mecca on Jan. 26.
This haj season has been marred by the last-minute postponement of the pilgrimage for 30,000 people, although they had already paid the fees. House legislators blamed the government for speculating on the haj quota by accepting extra pilgrims prior to receiving approval from the Saudi government. Demands mounted afterwards for resignation of the religious affairs minister and an end to the government monopoly in management of the haj pilgrimage.
Riyadh did not grant Jakarta's request for additional seats, citing the consensus within the Organization of the Islamic Conference that each member state be allocated one seat for every 1,000 Muslims in its population. For this haj season, the Indonesian government has chartered planes from national flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia and from Saudi Arabian Airlines to carry the pilgrims to and from Mecca.



Posted in Ramadan @ 31 December 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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