Fri, 19 Dec 2003

The Haj and Ministry of Religious Affairs

Some 30,000 would-be Indonesian haj pilgrims in 2004 will fail to depart for the holy land following the Saudi Arabian government's rejection of Indonesia's request for an additional quota allocation.

We understand how disappointed they are because to Indonesian Muslims the haj is everything and is a source of social pride.

We are fed up of hearing about various problems related to haj pilgrimages, ranging from late departures to the holy land to postponements such as this.

In this light, we wonder how such a religious issue could get so mixed up with the profane.

Since requesting an additional quota allocation is fraught with uncertainty, Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs should not have tried to extract such an additional allocation from the Saudi Arabian government as the haj quota is based upon common agreement.

Thus, it is important for the ministry to be prudent by refraining from further speculative ventures as these in the long run will only disadvantage the haj pilgrims themselves.

The ministry, which should be setting a moral example, has in fact come under the spotlight due to anomalies in its handling of the haj.

Is the ministry being led by the right people?

-- Media Indonesia, Jakarta