Hajj group off to Mecca
By JULIEN NEAVES Friday, October 4 2013
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HAPPY TO GO: Nafessa Mohammed, right, gives Suffoora Acklima Ali a hug. At age 82. Suffoora is the oldest in her group leaving for Hajj. ...
THERE were smiles and joyful embraces as 51 Muslim pilgrims were at the Piarco International Airport yesterday preparing to leave for London, England, the first stop on their trip to the annual sacred Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
It was a scene in stark contrast to the previous day, when there were tears and comforting hugs as 87 Muslims were denied Hajj visas from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.
Suffoora Acklima-Ali, 82, from Diego Martin, told Newsday she was very excited and happy to be going to Hajj, noting it is the fifth and most important pillar of Islam, and was a life-changing moment.
81-year-old Oreisha Mohammed said she was glad to fulfill the lifelong wish, and was looking forward to seeing the Kabah shrine in Mecca.
Imtiaz Ali, 47, said he was anxious to perform the journey.
Also at the airport yesterday was Allimudin Mohammed who was in a group of 20 planning to go to the Hajj this year, but their leader was unable to obtain visas in Caracas. He claimed that the registered groups “opposed that” and crossed their quota so no one else was able to go.
Hajj organiser Sheriff Udin Mohammed, who was leaving with the 51 pilgrims yesterday, denied that the Hajj council had anything to do with the denial of the other groups. He also dismissed as fake a print-out dated May 30, 2013 and entitled
“No Visas for Non-Licence Operators ever Again” where the Hajj Council allegedly boasted that they have stopped all groups trying to get visas outside of them.
He said that all countries have a quota and this year the quota for this country dropped by 20 percent from 300 to about 240, due to renovation works in Makkah (Mecca) and a virus in Saudi Arabia.
He said about 250 pilgrims were attending this year from this country. He noted it was “very sad” for the people who cannot go.
“But I don’t know what course of action they took. I always do the right thing,” he added.
The last group from this country to leave for the Hajj is scheduled to depart tomorrow.