Improper pilgrimage profits: selling hajj visasOctober 16, 2011
In a scandal that reaches into the Saudi embassy in South Africa, an undisclosed number of South African hajj operators are under investigation by the South African Haj & Umrah Council (SAHUC) for selling visas to people outside of South Africa’s hajj quota who have not been properly accredited to participate in the hajj.
During an Oct. 5 broadcast, SAHUC secretary general Shaheen Essop told Radio Islam that the matter “goes beyond a hajj scandal; it’s actually a disgrace.” Take a listen to this three-minute exchange:
Apparently, the hajj operators were bringing paperwork on behalf of non-accredited hujjaj (pilgrims) to the Saudi embassy in South Africa for visas to be issued. When pressed by the Radio Islam interviewer on whether Saudi embassy employees were involved in the improper visa issuance (which they most certainly were), Essop carefully avoided implicating the Saudis, saying that SAHUC’s investigation will not penetrate the Saudi embassy due to an “administrative issue related to that.” However, Essop did disclose later in the interview that the Saudi embassy is conducting an internal investigation.
Selling hajj visas for trade is considered impermissible, although the hajj is well-known to produce enormous annual business for tourism and hospitality sectors both in and outside Saudi Arabia. Hajj swindles have already been uncovered this year in Tajikstan and Lebanon.
Although the hajj will not take place until early November this year, many South African Muslims, including ones who improperly purchased their visas, have already departed for Saudi Arabia.