Friday, 14 October 2011

British Hajj Consular Delegation 2011 Launch

Launch of British Hajj Consular Delegation 2011
At the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The British Hajj Consular Delegation 2011 was launched at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the presence of Baroness Warsi, Cabinet Minister without Portfolio, Jeremy Browne, M.P. Foreign Office Minister and His Excellency Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Monday, the 10th of October, 2011. The launching event was attended by Ambassadors, diplomatic representatives of different Muslim Embassies in London, Community leaders and journalists.

Saudi Arabia provides excellent services
Jeremy Browne, Foreign Office Minister
While launching this year British Hajj Consular Delegation, Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, M.P. thanked the Saudi Government for their “excellent services to all pilgrims”. Mr. Browne said, “The government of Saudi Arabia provides excellent services to all pilgrims. We are very grateful for their close cooperation with the British Embassy and the Consulate Directorate here in London.”

He also assured to make the pilgrimage “enjoyable and trouble-free experience as much as possible”. Foreign Office Minister also introduced Ms Nagina Akhtar who is going to be the delegation leader this year and she is a very experienced consular officer, said Browne and added, “I am told she will be the first woman to perform this duty on our behalf.”

Referring to last year activities of the Delegation, Mr. Browne said, “Last year Consular delegation provided a wide range of support; provide emergency travel documents; to replace stolen or lost passports; support the hospitalised pilgrims, provide consular assistance in the event of death and advice to the British pilgrims who were victims of tour operators.”

As a Minister responsible for the UK Consular, Mr. Browne mentioned, “I have taken a special interest in the preparation of this year Hajj Delegation along with Baroness Warsi.”

Hajj was a huge amount of investment
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
In her Opening Remarks, Baroness Warsi, Cabinet Minister without Portfolio, mentioned, “I have the privilege of doing Hajj last year as the guest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It provided me with the first hand experience how challenging, how rewarding, how amazing, how moving, how completely life-changing experience of Hajj is. Some 20,000 pilgrims from Britain have the privilege of performing Hajj every year.”

Baroness Warsi also mentioned about people that she was travelling who had performed Hajj and her own experience of performing Umrah in the last. She said, “Hajj was a huge amount of investment that is going on to make the experience of Hajj and Umrah easier on so many different levels, whether that is infrastructure, healthcare in which you are moving around in a very small place in a very limited time which is Hajj becomes.”

“Of course, by nature Hajj is a demanding and our consular services are there hopefully to provide a support,” Baroness Warsi said and she also added, “Nagina Akhina will be leading the Delegation along with consular offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. Our Consular General in Jeddah, Mr. Shaukat, may be many of you will be familiar with, will be there.”

Saudi Ambassador Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf
While thanking Baroness Warsi and Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne for their kind words, Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, also thanked the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. “I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Gulf Team and the Hajj Desk at Her Majesty’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office for the invaluable support they extend, annually, to British Hajj Delegation. Such support has proven to be instrumental in the success of the many delegations throughout the years. Needless to say, the support offered by the British Government to the Hajj Delegation is an embodiment of the care and attention it gives to British Muslims as an integral part of this country’s demographic combination – a care and attention that unquestionably strengthens all British Muslims’ sense of belonging to their national homeland and reinforces their commitment and dedication to the well-being and development of their communities and the country as a whole,” said Prince Mohammed.

Hajj as the most beautiful and moving
Prince Mohammed mentioned, “In a world full of religious rituals, one must certainly list the Hajj as the most beautiful and moving, and it can be regarded so not only because it is the largest on earth, but for three further reasons; which I shall summarize as the purpose, the people, and the passion.”

Purpose of Hajj: to fulfil the obligation of the fifth pillar
Explaining and elaborating the three reasons, Prince Mohammed said, “First, the purpose: What is the purpose of the Hajj? It is, first and foremost, to fulfil the obligation of the fifth pillar which is that every Muslim of able body and means must do the Hajj. But, of course, in performing such an obligation the pilgrim carries out other profound and important tasks. He demonstrates his solidarity with the Muslim people. He exhibits his devotion to the birthplace and the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. And, most of all, he actively proves what he verbally expresses during the first Tawaf: Bism Allah, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar wa lil Lahi Alhamd – In the name of God, God is Great, God is Great, God is Great and praise be to God.”

The People: They travel from Diaspora to divinity
Mentioning about the second reason, Prince Mohammed said, “The second reason that the Hajj is so unique and spiritually stirring is the people that perform it. For we must not forget that the individuals who call themselves Muslims, and who perform the Hajj, live within diverse cultures and cross numerous borders to carry out their Islamic duty. They are Malaysians, Canadians, Chinese, Kenyans, Azerbaijanis, Germans, and more. Yet for each, the reality remains the same - they travel from different lands to one land – from places where their religion can make them feel foreign at times to a place that has always been the home of their religion - in short, they travel from Diaspora to divinity.”

The Passion: passions of devotion, of commitment,
“Finally, the Hajj is an incredible experience due to the passions that are exhibited by the pilgrims – the passions of devotion, of commitment, of service; of community, of humility, and of the desire to live by the purest and most peaceful principles. For with its simple, unified and soul-touching rituals, the Hajj stands as a true reflection that is at the heart of Islam. For all are equal in the Hajj, all are motivated by the same force, and all go to serve the same God, blessed be Allah, humbly and obediently. It is rare in today’s world to find such deep and tireless devotion, especially to the performing of an act that is at its heart done to serve nothing more than the passionate cause of peace, love and unity,” said Prince Mohammed.

The Saudi Ambassador mentioned, the Hajj is an amazing journey, a profound religious ritual, and a testament to the power of Islam. I have no doubt that many of our British Muslim brothers and sisters have experienced the truth of this claim first hand, and I further trust that the members of this year’s Hajj Delegation will discover it as well as they undertake their blessed journey, he said.

Prince Mohammed said, “Of course, as a Muslim and as a Saudi, I feel exceedingly proud to be representing the nation that - as always - will have the honour and privilege of hosting this dedicated Delegation of Muslims – and millions more like them – who will be coming from all over the world this year to perform Hajj. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we believe that God Almighty has blessed our nation with the honour and responsibility of being the Custodians and servitors of Islam’s most sacred mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This is a blessing that we thank God for, and a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

Speaking about those who are in the Saudi Embassy in London, the Saudi Ambassador said, “We are honoured to be a part of the efforts exerted by our country to live up to its esteemed responsibility. It is no small task, as many of you know, to play host to millions of pilgrims, for it poses huge on-going administrative, organisational, logistical and safety challenges.”

“Fortunately, our leader, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, his Crown Prince and the Second Vice Premier, personally lead all sectors of the Saudi government in putting forth sizeable efforts to face these challenges effectively and efficiently. This requires the allocation and proficient management of huge human, financial and cultural resources, but it is an effort that the Kingdom is only too honoured to be allowed to make in the name of Islam,” said Prince Mohammed.

Improving the services and expansion of Haramain
Referring to the improving the services and the expansion of the Haramain, the Saudi Ambassador said, “Throughout the past years, the British Hajj Delegation and the many other visitors to the Holy Places in Makkah and Madinah have seen a large-scale projects that have been launched and completed to continue improving the services provided to them. This year, however, the visitors to the Holy Places will notice an exceptionally impressive addition to these efforts. Under the direction of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz - who has already carried out the expansion of Al-Masaa and the construction of the massive Al-Jamaraat Bridge Complex – the foundation was laid just in the last few weeks for even more large scale projects in Makkah and Madinah, including the biggest expansion in history of the Holy Mosque in Makkah. This expansion will increase the capacity of the Holy Mosque in Makkah.”

Prince Mohammed also said, “This expansion will increase the capacity of the Holy Mosque by more than 150%; from six hundred thousand to over one and a half million worshippers will now be able to be contained within its walls. All of these massive construction projects are aimed at making Hajj and Umrah easier, safer and more comfortable for our honoured guests.”

Out of approximately 2 million Muslims in the United Kingdom about 25,000 British citizens are expected to perform Hajj this year. The Saudi Ambassador assured them “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will spare no effort to ensure that their pilgrimage to the Holy Places begins and concludes safely and peacefully and that it is as fulfilling as befits such an important experience. Further, we in the Saudi Embassy hold it as our highest obligation to be at the service of these pilgrims should they require our assistance in any way”, said the Saudi Ambassador. .

Saudi Ambassador wishes blissful visit to the
Holy Places, an ideal Hajj and a safe return to their homes
The Saudi Ambassador concluded his speech by wishing the British Hajj Delegation, and all British Muslims who are performing Hajj this year, “a blissful visit to the Holy Places, an ideal Hajj and a safe return to their homes and loved ones.”

Foreign Office advises British nationals to prepare
Before travelling to the Hajj
Britons travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj should prepare carefully and follow travel safety advice. Around 20,000 are expected to make the journey from 4-9 November.

The Foreign Office is urging Hajj pilgrims to get comprehensive travel insurance and essential vaccinations before embarking on their journey: The Foreign Office said:
- it is compulsory for travellers to the Hajj to have a Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination certificate in order to obtain a Hajj visa
- we strongly recommend that you have a seasonal influenza vaccination prior to embarking on your trip
-you should take out fully comprehensive travel insurance in advance
-check the Foreign Office travel advice for the latest on the situation in Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Office will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending a delegation of consular staff. The majority of cases that the delegation handled last year were replacing travel documents. Pilgrims should ensure they look after personal belongings and should take particular care with travel documents, tickets and other valuables.

The delegation will be located at the Elaf Al Khalil Hotel, Makkah. You can find contact details and information on what the delegation can and can’t do in our travel advice for Hajj pilgrims.

Nagina Akhtar leading the British Hajj Delegation
Nagina Akhtar, an experienced Consular Officer from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be leading this year British Hajj Consular Delegation.

British Hajj Delegation: Background
Looking back at the formation of British Hajj Delegation, it may be mentioned that as early as September, 1990, the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Union of Muslim Organizations, UK & Eire (UMO), under the leadership of Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, held in London, called upon the UMO to “continue its negotiations with the British Government to establish an official Hajj Mission to assist the increasing number of British Muslims who are performing Hajj every year.” Next year, again in September, 1991, at its Twenty-First Annual Conference held at the Cavendish Conference Centre, London under the chairmanship of Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, UMO General Secretary, passed resolution to the effect that this conference “called upon the British Foreign Office to reconsider its position with regard to the establishment of an official Hajj Mission in coordination with the UMO.”

Dr. Pasha has been continuing calling upon the government till Lord Nazir Ahmed was appointed a Peer in the House of Lords when Lord Ahmed, as he has been in the House of Lords, asked the British government to form a delegation that can lead the Muslim members of the British community to Hajj. As a result, the British government was the first European or rather first western government that actually appointed Lord Ahmed as head of the British Hajj Delegation in 1999. British Hajj Delegation was started in 1999 and Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham led the first British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia. From next year, 2000 to last year, 2009, Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn led the British Hajj Delegation. The British Hajj Delegation, since it has started, has directly supported over 23,000 British Pilgrims over the last 13 years.

“Lord Patel has done tremendous amount of work and Lord Ahmed who set up the delegation also did tremendous amount of work,” said Baroness Warsi, Minister without Portfolio, at the launching of the British Hajj Delegation on 27th of October 2010 from the Durbar Court, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), London.


Susan Eva said...

The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, where the Kaaba is. The Kaaba is a large, black cube in "The great mosque" in Mecca.The pilgrimage is one of the five most important duties a Muslim must do. These duties are called the Five Pillars of Islam.
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mark tag said...

This means abstention from food, beverages, and sex from dawn to sunset, and curbing evil intentions and desires. It teaches love, sincerity, and devotion. It develops patients, unselfishness, social conscience, and willpower to bear hardship.

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