Hajj Awareness Week 2012
launched at the House of Lords
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The Association of British Hujjaj, UK, (ABH) the oldest Hajj-related National charity organisation, launched Hajj Awareness Week 2012 at the House of Lords, on Tuesday, the 9th of October 2012. The purpose of this launch was to raise awareness of the health & safety issues amongst the 25,000 prospective British Pilgrims who are joining over two million pilgrims from around the world in Makkah. To support this prestigious event, members of the House of Lords, Government officials, diplomats and community dignitaries were present.
Lord Ahmed of Rotherham
Lord Ahmed, Patron of the British Hujjaj Association, who has been working together with the ABH along with Lord Hunt for the last 13 years reminded the gathering that Labour government initiated first and the historic Hajj Delegation which he had the honour of leading to Makkah, Mina and Arafat in 2000 on behalf of the British government and more importantly to serve the people, 25,000 British Hujjaj there.
Lord Ahmed paid tribute to Khalid Pervez and his dedicated team at the ABH who has been working tirelessly voluntarily for the 13/14 years and carrying out an extensive campaign to raising awareness of pre-travel health & safety issues through high profile multi-lingual publicity campaigns, because Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which is very important for Muslims.
In his welcoming remarks, Lord Ahmed mentioned about tour operators. He said majority of the tour operators are very good and they do good job. But there is one or two who are fraudulent and it is always time to remind people to be aware of those fraudulent people who take money and run away. The ABH addresses the extremely serious issue of the worsening situation of exploitation of British Hujjaj who experience extreme hardship at the hands of unscrupulous tour operators and travel agents.
Lord Ahmed went on to highlight the importance of this event, saying that “to perform the Hajj in the safest and best possible manner, pilgrims must be aware of all aspects of performing Hajj, by launching this awareness campaign, we will enhance Hajj related health & safety awareness amongst British pilgrims.”
Lord Ahmed acknowledged and appreciated the fantastic work of the Saudi government by saying that Saudi government provides very good service in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat. He mentioned “when we have 50,000 or 100,000 refugees or even people in any one event it is almost impossible for us.”
The admirable facilities provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were praised by Lord Ahmed. He mentioned about the preparations for the Olympics and said, quite frankly to have three million people from overseas and three to four million locals that come from the Arabian peninsula for Hajj in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat are provided services with food water and everything year after year.
Lord Phil Hunt, Deputy Leader
House of Lords
Lord Phil Hunt, deputy leader of the House of Lords, who has been working with the ABH recollected 13 years ago when he first came to a meeting in Birmingham to talk about the issue of safety and health, since then thousands of pilgrims have gone from UK on pilgrimage and the number grows year on year. Lord Hunt said, there have been vast improvements and the campaign about health immunization has undoubtedly had a major impact and because of it many lives has been saved. But we know we can’t be complacent I think two people have lost their lives last year.
Lord Hunt also mentioned that although we meet every year we don’t become complacent; we don’t underestimate the need for programmes like this to get this point across to the many pilgrims who go from the United Kingdom. So it is great pleasure for me to take part in this event and of course the event in Birmingham.
“One thing I have learnt from speaking at various occasions has been the issue of tour operators. Like Lord Ahmed, my good friend, I very much agree that most operators do responsible job, as we heard from Birmingham Trading Standards department. There are enough instances where this is not happened; we have serious problem,” said Lord Hunt and mentioned, “When we first debated this in Birmingham few years ago and of course no action being taken against any operator.”
Lord Hunt said, “I remember, we had representation from Birmingham Trading Standard Department and I think from that moment it became clear that we had a department which is going to be prepared to be serious and I think we should pay a great tribute to it and for the work they have done. In Birmingham we belief we are the leading city in the UK where Birmingham leads and other follow.”
While launching Hajj Awareness Week in Birmingham 10 days ago, Lord Hunt said that it seems to me that no greater symbol of the need for us to be tolerated and integrated is the fact that there has been a real effort by the previous government and I hope by this government another agency to actually support pilgrims on this great journey and I think for me it is a symbol of a kind of a country we are and wanted to be. That’s why I am proud to be invited here again today.
Deputy Leader of the House of Lords commended the hard work and continuous efforts made over a decade by the Association of British Hujjaj to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of Hajj pilgrims. He assured his full support towards this noble and humanitarian cause for helping and protecting the British Hajj pilgrims from hardship and difficulties.
Dr. Syed Raza Hussain
Dr. Syed Raza Hussain from ABH talked about Meningitis awareness. He does annually and the importance of this injections and the legal requirement from Saudi authorities. Dr Hussain strongly urged the prospective pilgrims to safeguard against infectious diseases such as Meningitis which is a killer disease. Meningitis is a sure killer. Save yourself by timely action. Get vaccinated today. I repeat get vaccinated TODAY. Because TOMORROW might be too late; or indeed who knows, it may never ever come at all, he said and added, therefore, all the prospective pilgrims must ensure to get the Meningitis vaccination before they leave for Hajj.
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, chairman of the Muslim Doctors Association, stressed that prospective pilgrims must take every precaution to ensure their Health and Safety during Hajj because they are always at high risk of contracting infectious diseases due to factors such as crowded conditions at ceremonies, accommodation sites, and public transport.
Mr. Saleh Kiyani
Mr. Saleh Kiyani, Minister for Communities and Welfare at Pakistan High Commission, London, emphasized on the need to create awareness about Hajj among the community and said those who are involved in this noble and religious work will get their reward from Allah the Almighty. About 25,000 pilgrims go for Hajj every year and they travelled from UK, Mr. Kiyani said. He is grateful to the Association of British Hujjaj for organising every year seminar to create awareness about Hajj among the pilgrims.
The officials from Police, Trading Standards Department, and ABTA also spoke and ensured that the Government authorities will make every effort to help and protect British Hajj pilgrims from exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous and rogue tour and travel operators.
Ms. Kaya Rebecca
Ms. Kaya Rebecca, Trading Standards Officer from Buckinghamshire County Council Trading Standards, explaining the different Travel Package Regulations and what the Trading Standards departments can do, said, help us to protect others by eliminating the rogues and bringing the security back into making this, the greatest of journeys. She also mentioned about those leaflets approved and developed by ABH such as BIS information for booking a pilgrimage Package, BIS information for organisers of package trips, Hajj-Essential information about Fraud from the City of London Police; Hajj-Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice and Bucks County Hajj Survey form and envelop.
Mr. Asif Sadiq
Mr. Asif Sadiq from the City of London Police said to the community to come forward. He said, please don’t suffer in silence. If things go wrong, please have confidence on us and come forward.
Association of British Hujjaj Award
Earlier, while officially launching the Hajj Awareness Week 2012, Birmingham Trading Standards department was awarded for their hard work and achievements to ensure the strict implementation of UK Laws. The Association of British Hujjaj declared this year’s Award which was presented to Ms. Sajeela Naseer, Head of Birmingham Trading Standards and Mr. Mohammed Tariq, Senior Trading Standards Officer, for their hard work and achievements for the British pilgrims. The ABH started the Award presentation ceremony, for the first time, last year in 2011 when Mr. Surbuland and Dr. Mozammel Haque were chosen as “Friends of the Association of British Hujjaj”.
The Association of British Hujjaj, UK, a National Charity, formed in 1998, has been working closely with the Government Departments and British Muslim Community to coordinate their efforts for the welfare of British Hujjaj.