Hajj “At A Discount”, Russian Style

Ukrainian pilgrims, 2009
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This year is the first time when Ukrainian Muslims leave for performing Hajj within the quotas of two countries at once, namely Ukraine and Russian Federation. Such situation occurred due to the fact that the Crimean Muslims are to perform hajj within the quota provided for Russia.

According to our sources among Crimean Muslims, at first there was an agreement that Crimean Muslim will perform Hajj within the Ukrainian quota this year, and everyone willing started filing documents for the application. The situation, however, changed dramatically some time later. Russian touring firm “Muslim Tour” which, among other activities, arranges Hajj trips for the Russian Muslims, proposed favourable terms for the Muslims of Crimea.

Value in dispute
According to the press-service of Religious Administration of Muslims of Crimea, many pilgrims decided to perform Hajj within the Russian quota after that proposal, which included not only attending Makkah and Madinah, but also the charter flights from Simferopol to Mineral’nye Vody and further to Jiddah — all for only USD 2,500 (while average trip from RF costs about USD 4,500). Such a low price, according to RAMC, became possible after the touring operator made a valuable discount and arranges trips for Crimean Muslims at cost, without gaining any financial profit. What made “Muslim Tour” take such decision is, perhaps, concealed in the cabinets of Russian high ranking officers and is not to be disclosed to public.

They saved 150 places for Crimean Muslims who didn’t fail to reserve them all. The explanation is simple — everyone wants to use the opportunity of performing Hajj at such a low cost while they can. And Hajj is one of the duties of every Muslim.

Hajj From Ukraine
At the same time, there are no barriers for those who want to perform Hajj within the Ukrainian quota, still the price is higher: Ukrainian touring operator “Zamzam” asks USD 4,000 for the trip. According to Mr.Yasser Amro, the director, nothing changed in how the trip is arranged this year, except for the low quantity of those willing to take the tour. About thirty Muslims applied so far (at the general quota of 160 pilgrims from Ukraine). “We will do the same this year, and the quota of 160 pilgrims remained unchanged for ukraine, though we will hardly be able to fill it now, as most Crimean Muslims took the Russian tour within the Russian quota,” — Mr.Amro notes.

The touring operator will accept the documents up to September 15, still the price remains the same — USD 4,000. “We will deliver for Hajj as many people as applied, this is our duty as the operator,” — he said.

What Next?
It’s hard to predict how many people will go within the Ukrainian quota this year, but the possibility of overseeing the quotas by the Saudi Arabia is very likely. It possible, too, that the price for the Crimean Muslims will be increased next year to about USD 5,000, which is average in Russia. The question, whether they will be able to go within the Ukrainian quota in that case, remains open.

It’s worth recalling the historical experience, when the Muslims having performed Hajj from the Russian Empire were recorded by the supervision bodies as “unreliable” from that time on. There’s a possibility, however, that the “Hajj at a discount” wasn't meant for revealing the obedient Muslims, but rather to win the loyalty of Crimean Tatars.

Mr.Abdullah Asanov,
special for “Islam in Ukraine”

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