Monday, 24 November 2008

Launch of British Hajj Delegation 2008

Launch of British Hajj Delegation 2008

Dr. Mozammel Haque

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has launched this year’s UK Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia, yesterday, Wednesday, the 12th of November 2008 from the Lancaster House, London, in the presence of Saudi Ambassador Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, Lord Adam Patel and diplomats and other members of the Hajj Delegation, guests and community leaders. Twenty-five thousand UK Muslims will go this year to perform the annual pilgrimage in Makkah with the British government offering advice, support and medical care to its citizens going there. British Hajj Delegation is a team that will provide on the ground medical and consular support for British pilgrims attending the Hajj later this month.

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, M.P.
The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, M.P. said “There could not be a better example of 'people-to-people' diplomacy than the Hajj Delegation, I think it builds bridges, it builds links, and also sends a very strong message about the commitment we have to valuing our own Muslim citizens in valuing their heritage, making sure they're able to express their own religion in an open and tolerant way.”

David Miliband, M.P. also said, “I think the presence of twenty five thousand proud Britons on the Hajj Delegation as proud Muslims is a very important way of emphasizing those twin themes of diversity and unity that are so important.”

Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz,
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom and Ireland, said, “We celebrate together the launch of the British Hajj Delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj season.

“This special event of a great and deeply meaningful “Send off” for the British pilgrims is truly heartwarming and highly commendable. I believe that all Muslim will highly appreciate seeing similar events in other European countries,” said Prince Mohammed.

Speaking about the significance of Hajj, Prince Mohammed said, “During Hajj, millions of Muslims, from all over the world, gather in the same spots and at the same times, standing together on equal footing, and dressed as one. In this, Hajj is a true reflection of the exalted principles of equality, modesty and human brotherhood that are at the heart of Islam.”

“Hajj is an occasion where Muslims from all nations, races, countries and walks of life are endowed with a golden opportunity to know each other better and learn more about each other’s issues and concerns; thus emphasizing Islam’s teachings of compassion, cooperation, tolerance and caring for others. In short, Hajj is, by far, the most impressive manifestation of Islam’s cross-borders and cross-cultures nature, that is based on the equality of mankind in the eyes of God Almighty and aims for the good of all humanity,” the Saudi Ambassador mentioned.

The Saudi Ambassador also said, “In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we believe that God Almighty had truly blessed our nation with the honor and responsibility of being the custodians, stewards and servitors of Islam’s most sacred places; namely the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.”

Speaking about the recent development of the Haramain for the convenience of the Pilgrims, the Saudi Ambassador said, “Hardly a month passes by without a new project or a new service being launched to improve and care for the Holy places and, eventually, for the visitors to these places. As you are all well aware, each year, the Kingdom hosts more than two million Muslims who come from all over the world specifically to perform Hajj, in addition to several millions who visit the Holy places in Makkah and Madinah throughout the year.”

Mentioning about the development of the religious and holy sites, the Saudi Ambassador said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the moment one Hajj season ends, the authorities immediately begin working diligently in preparation for the next. For example, those who are leaving to the Holy Places with this blessed delegation will notice that the passage between Safa and Marwah – which the place for one of Hajj’s main rituals – is almost twice as spacious this year as it was last year. They will know that plans are already underway to significantly expand King Abd al-Aziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad ibn Abd al-Aziz airport in Madinah.”

“Moreover, they will know of the Saudi Arabian Government’s plans to build a modern high-speed train system that connects the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah and other cities. And the list goes on and on…,” mentioned Prince Mohammed and added, “By launching all of these projects and services, the greatest reward the Kingdom looks for is to ensure that Hajj is performed properly and comfortably, and that pilgrims return home to their families safe, happy and fulfilled.”

The Saudi Ambassador also informed, “Out of approximately two million Muslims in the United Kingdom, about 50,000 British citizens, on average, performed Hajj or Umrah last year and the year before it. A similar or larger number expected this year. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will do everything it can to ensure that the mission of the British Hajj Delegation is a successful one.”

Prince Mohammed expressed his “sincere thanks and appreciation to Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office – with special thanks to the Hajj Desk – for the invaluable support they extend annually to the British Hajj Delegation; thus enabling it to travel to Saudi Arabia and play a significant role in looking after the welfare of the British Muslim pilgrims.”

The Prince also praised “the efforts of the Hajj Desk in producing and distributing thousands of leaflets that provide ‘Advice to British Hajjis’ – a very comprehensive and practical guide to the pilgrims” and expressed “thanks to all members of the Hajj Advisory Group and its Chairman, Lord Adam Patel, who has proven himself to be instrumental in the success of his group and the British Hajj Delegations throughout the years.”

The Saudi Ambassador also expressed thanks and appreciation to the Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, to all of his staff and to the heads and staff of other Islamic centres for their invaluable efforts and the great work they have done, and continue to do.”
Praising the British Hajj Delegation, the Saudi Ambassador said, “The British Hajj Delegation has become a model for others to follow; due to its highly organized planning and effective execution on the ground.”

“Undoubtedly, the support offered by the British Government to the Hajj Delegation is a clear example of the high level of care and attention it gives to British Muslims at all times and in all fields, as an integral part of this country’s demographic combination,” mentioned the Saudi Ambassador and added, “This – as reflected in real life – strengthens British Muslims sense of belonging as citizens of this great country and re-enforces their commitment and dedication to the wellbeing and development of their communities and country as a whole.”

The Saudi Ambassador wished the “British Hajj Delegation, and all British Muslims who are performing Hajj this year, a safe journey, a blissful visit to the Holy places, an accepted Hajj and a safe return to their homes and loves ones.”.

Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn
Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, the Leader of the British Hajj Delegation, said, “The British Hajj Delegation is a unique consular project and builds on work already undertaken by the FCO to support large movements of British citizens abroad, such as the World Cup. This aims and objectives of the delegation demonstrate clearly the commitment of the FCO to diversity and supporting British citizens abroad.”

“There are many countries with much larger Muslim populations, such as the USA, France and Germany. Yet they do not provide their citizens with this level of support. As far as I know only France and Germany send representatives from their Embassy’s to provide support in emergencies,” said the leader of the British Hajj Delegation.

“I cannot stress enough that these preventive measures result in great savings to the NHS (in early diagnosis) and employers (less time of work). It is estimated that over one million pounds are saved every year…We have now supported over 25,000 people over the last 9 years,” said Lord Patel and added, “This year the delegation will again comprise of 9 doctors (including a female GP) and 3 consular officials. This is in addition to support from consular officials in Jeddah and Riyadh.”

Speaking about the success of the delegation, Lord Patel, who is leading the British Hajj Delegation for the ninth year, informed, “In advance of the Hajj taking place the FCO along with the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) run an extensive campaign to inform pilgrims what they should look for when arranging a Hajj package so that they are properly protected if things go wrong on their Hajj.”

“This year, a number of meetings have been held with BERR and ATOL officials with members of the public to discuss a range of problems that are encountered during the Hajj and also Umrah,” mentioned Lord Patel and added, “One of the outcomes of these meetings is to form a co-coordinating committee with ATOL, BEER, FCO, UK tour operators and businesses to make recommendations to ensure the Hajj pilgrimage is as trouble free as possible for British citizens. I look forward to your support in this crucial area of work.”

Finally, the leader of the British Hajj Delegation expressed his “thanks to the Saudi government, Ministry of Hajj, Dr. Al-Dubayan and officials at the Saudi Embassy for the vital role they play in supporting the work of the delegation.”

1 comment:

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