As a meeting got underway in Cape Town, at the same time hundreds of Muslims met in Crosby, Johannesburg on Sunday to voice their opposition at the introduction of excessive visa fees for hajj and umrah. The Saudi Arabia Government recently announced the introduction of visa fees of SR 2000, or some R10 000. This has caused worldwide anger.
Speaking at the public meeting, social activist and co-chair of the newly formed Anti Visa Fee Committee SA, Yusuf Abramjee, said: “We are all opposed to the visa fee hike. It is exorbitant. Today we are joining the international outcry against the high visa fees for Hajj and Umrah.
“Hajj and Umrah is a religious obligation and should be performed by any Muslim who can afford it. This new visa fee will be an added burden on pilgrims,” said Moulana Moosa Akoodie, co-vice chairperson of the new body.
Various representatives from SAHUC, SA Muslim Travel Association, religious bodies and NGO’s were co-opted to the new committee. Others have been invited to join in.
Moulana Ebrahim Bham, Secretary-General of the Jamiatul Ulama SA, (Council of Muslim Theologians) who co chaired the meeting with Abramjee, said: “We are standing united on this issue. These visa fees must be scrapped and we will engage the Saudi Embassy embassy in Pretoria and SA Government to also get clarity.”
Umrah season is expected to open within days.
The SA Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) also expressed its opposition to the visa fee hike and said it had already written letters to the Saudi Embassy and DIRCO to oppose it.
Fazila Malek from the SA Muslim Travel Association was was elected co-vice chairperson with Moulana Akoodee, said “the R10 000 visa fee will make it difficult for many to travel to the holy land. We want it scrapped.”
Abramjee said the meeting unanimously resolved to engage the Saudi and SA government urgently. “We are also circulating petitions and thousands of people have already signed it. We are going to continue mobilizing.”
The meeting adopted this declaration:
We, the Muslims of South Africa and after consultation with the Muslims present today, Sunday, 16th October 2016 at JISA Centre, under the auspices of the ANTI VISA FEE COMMITTEE (SA)
1. We oppose the Hajj and Umrah visa Fees;
2. We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to immediately scrap the fees for Hajj and Umrah;
3. We call on the South African Government via DIRCO and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take up this call on behalf of the Muslim Community;
4. We call on the South African Government via DIRCO and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to present our call to scrap the proposed visa fees for Hajj and Umrah;
5. We call on all the Muslims of South Africa to sign the petition to scrap the proposed visa fees for Hajj and Umrah;
6. We do not support the call to boycott Umrah and Hajj as it is our right and religious obligation to perform Hajj and Umrah;
7. We join the International Community in this call to scrap the proposed Hajj and Umrah fees;
8. We will work towards regulating the agent’s admin fees that are being charged for obtaining of visas;
9. We will look into the issue of Health Insurance that is being circulated currently in social media;
10. We will have effective engagement with the authorities to re-look at the visa fees and discuss the reasonableness of such fees;
11. We will call on the South African Government to engage in bilateral agreements specifically for Hajj and Umrah on behalf of the Muslims of South Africa;
12. We will join the International forum to further the call for the scrapping of the visas for Hajj and Umrah;
13. We will use any other effective ways in going forward to challenge the visa fees for Hajj and Umrah.