Tag: hajj

Indonesia’s Smart Hajj app makes pilgrimage easier

Tech-conscious Indonesian pilgrims this year can count on their smartphones to make the pilgrimage easier by using the updated Smart Hajj application launched by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Available only to Android smartphone users since 2016, the app is available on Google Play Store and has been updated from its earlier version with more features on its menu.

“We have added more detailed information about the pilgrimage,” ministry spokesman Mastuki said.

Pilgrims can get information about their hotels, modes of transport, and a menu of the food they will eat throughout the journey by logging in the app, he added.

img_1087.jpgBy entering the code of their flight group, pilgrims can find out which hotel they will stay at in Makkah and Madinah, along with the map and online directions to get to the hotel and information on the facilities the hotel provides.

The pilgrims can also get information on the kind of food on the menu prepared for them on a specific day during their stay. Mastuki said this is an updated feature which previously only showed an example of a menu for the pilgrims.

The app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and has received mixed reviews from 395 users, of which 240 gave the app five stars. Some complaints in the reviews said the screen sometimes goes black and white and that it was still “too buggy.”

“Pilgrims can also submit complaints on problems they found during this year’s pilgrimage by logging in to the feature using their passport numbers,” said Sri Ilham Lubis, the ministry’s director for Hajj services, during the app launch on July 15.

According to data from the ministry, 81,618 Indonesian pilgrims had already arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Up to 221,000 pilgrims are expected to depart from Indonesia this year and the last Hajj departure will be on Aug. 14.

Read the full story in Arab News

 

 

Indonesians faking as Philippine pilgrims face scrutiny upon arrival

Indonesian pilgrims returning from Mecca are soon arriving in the country and celebrating their new status as Hajji, but many have seen their wishes to bear the venerable title shattered or may face questions on the validity of their pilgrimage after they resorted to go on the pilgrimage illegally, including posing as Philippine citizens.

The Indonesians faking their identities as Filipinos are expected to be among the first three batches of 1,049 pilgrims that the Philippine authorities and an Indonesian technical assistance team will scrutinize as they arrive in Manila on Monday.

The Indonesian team, comprised of immigration, religious ministry and police officials, would help to expedite deportation of Indonesian citizens who might be found among those arriving, after the Philippines authorities suspected hundreds of the arrivals could be Indonesians and Malaysians, who were using Philippine hajj passports.

“We would assist to verify their identities and determine if they are really Indonesian citizens, because their names and identities are being withheld by the Philippine immigration office,” Heru Santoso, a spokesman for the immigration office said.

The team was sent after the Foreign Ministry last week dispatched a special team to Manila. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad who led the team said they held a series of meeting on Wednesday with a task force set up by the Philippine government to deal with the illegal hajj case.

“The meeting agreed on the flow of handling the pilgrims when they arrive in Manila. We expect the flow would ensure that the pilgrims could be deported as soon as possible,” Lalu said in a statement on Thursday.

The first in a string of hajj scams involving Indonesians emerged from the Philippines on Aug 18 when immigration officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport arrested 177 Indonesians who were about to board their flights to Saudi Arabia. The officials became suspicious when none of them could speak any Filipino dialects despite listing Jolo in the southern Philippines as their addresses. It turned out they were Indonesians using legally obtained Philippine hajj passports but with fake identities and they were going to leave using Philippine’s unused hajj quota.

Further investigation to the case revealed that there could be up to 700 Indonesians that went on the pilgrimage posing as Filipino pilgrims, though many of them could also be Malaysians. In addition, another group of 229 Indonesians, comprised of 155 women, 59 men and 15 minors were detained by the Saudi authorities. They were arrested in two different locations for overstaying and not having the proper hajj permits.

The government has maintained since then that they are victims of hajj scams involving a syndicate in Indonesia and the Philippines, which exploited Muslims eager to skip the lengthy waiting list that could extend as far as 2055 and would go at any length to secure a spot to go to Mecca. President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirmed this view when the latter visited Jakarta on Sep 9.

A majority of the 177 Indonesians arrested in Manila – half of them were from South Sulawesi – have returned, while nine of them stayed behind for investigation purposes.

Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) secretary general, Muhammad Jafar Hafsah urged the government to improve its hajj management and impose stricter evaluation on the annual event.

Jafar said in a statement that it has become normal for many Indonesian pilgrims to register to go on hajj through other countries.

“There are also hajj travel operators that use fake visas from other countries. This is a work of mafia and a very serious crime. How could they manipulate this religious ritual to be an illegal trip implicating other countries,” Jafar said.

Cleric says pilgrims’ safety is paramount as Indonesia bids for more hajj quota

Indonesia is seeking ways to have more hajj quota next year in a bid to shorten its aspiring pilgrims’ waiting list that extends for decades and to avoid further embarrassment after hundreds of its citizens were found to have performed the mandatory religious ritual illegally this year, including posing as pilgrims from another country.

But Yahya Cholil Staquf, a top cleric from Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama said there is more to the pilgrimage woes than getting more quota allocation.

“What is important is not to have more pilgrims but to ensure their security during the pilgrimage,” Yahya said, adding that the quota allocation is basically set to ensure a safe and comfortable pilgrimage.

He also urged the government to issue a regulation about senior citizens of 60 years old and above who have not had the chance to perform the hajj.

“We need to make their departure a priority so they can go on the pilgrimage as soon as possible with a management and services that cater to their needs,” Yahya said.

Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) secretary general, Muhammad Jafar Hafsah said in a statement that the government needs to improve its hajj management and impose stricter evaluation on the annual event.

“There is a high demand and people can afford to go but they can’t due to limited quota. Even if they could finally go, they would be too old or probably already die by then,” he said.

Religious Ministry inspector general, M. Jasin said the religious affairs ministry has been beefing up efforts to lobby the Saudi government since last year to have the quota for Indonesia reinstated to its normal 211,000.

“We are confident that in 2017 our quota will be back to normal,” Jasin said.

The quota is allocated based on one per 1,000 out of each country’s Muslim population. Indonesia has been dealing with quota woes for the past three years after the Saudi government lowered quota for hajj-sending countries to make room for the renovation of Grand Mosque in Mecca. This year, Indonesia had 168,000 quota, a further reduction from last year’s 178,000 and the quotas were from far enough to accommodate Muslims who aspire to perform the annual ritual.

Jasin added that he is optimistic Indonesia could have more quota of about 240,000 or one percent out of its total population, considering that the holy mosque would have bigger capacity to accommodate more pilgrims after the renovation is finished.

Religious affairs ministry data showed that aspiring pilgrims have to wait 10 years at best to go to Mecca while those in some regions in Sulawesi have to wait the longest extending to 2054 and 2055.

The Philippine authorities found earlier this month that up to 700 foreigners, most of them believed to Indonesians and Malaysians, had gone on the pilgrimage posing as Philippine citizens. Last month, immigration officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport arrested 177 Indonesian pilgrims who were posing as Philippine citizens as they  were about to board their flights to Saudi Arabia, while another group of 229 Indonesians were detained by the Saudi authorities earlier this month for overstaying their visas and not having the proper hajj permits.

President Joko Widodo has also sought ways for Indonesia to use other countries’ unused hajj quota. Joko mentioned about this possibility to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during their meeting in Jakarta on Sep 9, as well as to Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, who is also the second deputy prime minister and defense minister, when they met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China earlier this month.

Joko said that both leaders agreed to Indonesia’s proposal but it would take further detailed calculation and procedure before the plan could actually work, while Duterte also agreed to amicably resolve the matter regarding the Indonesian pilgrims using Philippine passports.

“We would finalise this when King Salman visits Indonesia in October. Hopefully by that time we would know the additional figure for Indonesia’s quota and the possibility to use other countries’ unused quota,” Joko told journalists in Serang, Banten province on Sep 11.

Jasin said Saudi Arabia has to issue a new regulation about using other countries’ quota first before allowing Indonesia to bilaterally seek the countries’ approval to use their unused quotas.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory ritual for adult Muslims who are financially and physically able to do it for at least once in a lifetime. This year, hajj pilgrims in Indonesia had to pay Rp 34,641,000 per person to go on the pilgrimage.

Repeated hajj is also another cause to the lengthy waiting list. The Indonesian Council of Ulemma (MUI) issued a fatwa in 1984 that says once is enough to go on the pilgrimage but many have repeated the ritual multiple times. The fatwa was issued in consideration that others who have not had the chance to go could use the spots in the hajj quota.

In May 2015, the religious affairs ministry issued a ministerial regulation that impose a ten-year gap since the last hajj departure for those who want to do it again.