20 May 2018 – 9:19

Blocking Umrah during Ramadan causes disappointment

File picture used for representation

By Amna Pervaiz Rao | The Peninsula

DOHA: Due to unjust restrictions imposed on Qatar by the Saudi-led quartet, Qatari nationals and residents are not able to perform the Islamic ritual of Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan.

Many citizens have shared their opinion with The Peninsula on the issue expressing their unhappiness and sorrow of not being able to perform Umrah this Ramadan due to the continuing Saudi-led blockade.

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“Every Ramadan we would go for Umrah but this year we are bound under political tussle. We are literally speechless, we cannot express in words how cruel people can become regarding religion. We hope and pray every day that this dispute comes to an end and we perform our religious duties normally once again,” a local citizen, Mansoor Al Yami told The Peninsula.

The National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) had earlier issued a statement on the difficulties faced by residents and citizens of the State in performing Umrah, highlighting the committee’s deep concerns regarding the Saudi authorities’ persistent restrictions of Muslims’ right to perform religious rituals. The NHRC statement had also urged competent Saudi authorities not to use religious rites as a political leverage flagrantly violating international human rights conventions.

Talking about human rights, Jassim Al Mansoori, another Qatari national said: “The system which is controlled by people does not allow the pilgrims to perform Umrah. This control has destroyed the values of humanity which we have in our religion. No religion teaches people to stop others from practicing their religion. Being Muslims, we should help each other in such causes. I do not feel pain for myself only but for all my brothers who are stopped to enter the Holy land.”

The online portal of Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf) and Islamic Affairs allowing the electronic registration for pilgrimage indicates that registration is currently not possible for Qataris as well as expatriates.

According to the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) report, the government of Saudi Arabia has blocked the electronic registration for Qatar’s pilgrims in contrast to all other countries of the world. The report also indicates that Saudi pilgrimage authorities have frozen their communication with Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf) and Islamic Affairs. The Saudi embassy and consulate in Qatar had also been closed which implies that Haj and Umrah procedures cannot be performed from Qatar, according to the report.

Fahad Al Saiari, a Qatari national said: “Last year I managed to go for Umrah during Ramadan with my mother as it was a part of our routine. This year we are sad and disappointed. We are not amazed by Saudis being so cruel, as when the blockade was imposed even our animals were sent out of the country and we had to travel to Kuwait immediately to bring our camels to Doha.”

Several travel agencies that used to offer Umrah packages from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, have been closed in Qatar, which claim to face huge loss as well.

“We have been receiving many calls but we feel extremely sorry to inform people that the only platform where we were able to access and go for Umrah and Haj has been blocked for us. Even expats have to travel to their home-land and then go for Umrah which has caused a lot of difficulties for them,” said an official from a travel agency.