Launch of British Hajj Delegation 2012
at the Islamic Cultural Centre
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The British Hajj Delegation, a new Charitable organisation headed by Lord Adam Patel, the former leader of the official British Hajj Delegation, was launched at the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London, on the 29th of September, 2012. It is not the British government official Hajj delegation; it is a private initiative whose chairman is Lord Adam Patel. Of course, Lord Patel has been the leader of the official British Hajj Delegation from 2001 to 2009. From 2010 the British Government had been sending a British Hajj Consular Delegation responsible for the pilgrims.
At the very beginning, I want to make a clear-cut distinction between British Hajj Delegation (official/Government) and British Hajj Delegation (private initiative, may be a charity organisation). Are you confused? Let me make it clear.
British Hajj Delegation (official): Background
First go back to the background history of the formation of British Hajj Delegation (official). As early as September, 1990, the Union of Muslim Organizations, UK & Eire (UMO), under the leadership of Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, 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 1991, UMO 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.”
The Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) approached the Foreign Office, and the first meeting between the ABH and Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons was held on 15th July 1999, in the House of Lords. The Minister agreed to facilitate Hajj arrangements to provide healthcare, welfare and support services, such as bereavement, lost pilgrims, loss of luggage, passport, flight tickets and money etc. for British Hujjaj at Makkah in Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Pasha had 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. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office at that time under the leadership of Baroness Symons who first established this service for the British Hujjaj. As a result, the British government was the first European or rather first Western government that actually appointed the British Hajj Delegation in 1999.
After a series of meetings at the Foreign Office, history was made. The first ever British Hajj Delegation, headed by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, went to Saudi Arabia to help British pilgrims at Makkah during the Hajj period in 2000. This delegation set up a camp in Makkah during Hajj 2000 to provide full range of free medical, safety and consular facilities to the British Hajj pilgrims. This delegation has dedicated services to the British pilgrims on an annual basis each year since 2000.
Recollecting those days, Baroness Lady Symons of Vernham said at the House of Lords on 9 April, 2003, “Since 2000, we have supported and funded Hajj delegations. I remember well the valuable help that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, gave me in trying to set up that initiative. It involves a partnership between government and the Muslim community and has also been led by the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Blackburn. This year's delegation, which included eight medical staff, helped about 10 per cent of 15,000 British pilgrims. The noble Lord can take much credit for having been part of the trigger that got that going. We have also been running successful Islamic awareness training courses for our staff.”
Thus British Hajj Delegation was started in 1999 and Lord Ahmed led the first British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and from next year, 2001 to the 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.
British Hajj Delegation, 2000-2009
The British Hajj Mission represented an exemplary cooperation between the British Government, the Saudi Government, and the British Muslim Community. The British Hajj Mission was in cooperation with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) had a series of meetings. In 1999 Baroness Symons announced that the first British Hajj Delegation led by Lord Ahmed of Rotherham went in 2000 for Saudi Arabia. In the second year, i.e. 2001, Baroness Scotland announced that the second British Hajj Delegation led by Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn would lead the delegation for 2001. But, as the British Hajj Mission represented an exemplary cooperation between the British Government, the Saudi Government and the British Muslim Community, thus from 2002, the British Hajj Delegation was launched from the Islamic Cultural Centre, London.
From the very beginning, the British Hajj Delegation was sent to Saudi Arabia by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in partnership with the British Muslim Community. From 2002 to 2006, every year, the British Hajj Delegation was launched by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw from the Islamic Cultural Centre, Regents Park Mosque, London and it was attended by Lord Patel and Dr. Ahmed Dubayan, Director General of the Centre. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in partnership with the British Muslim community had been sending British Hajj Delegation to Makkah to provide help and support to the thousands of British pilgrims.
The British Hajj Delegation used to launch every year its delegation before the Hajj. It used to go to Saudi Arabia every year; held medical clinics, free medical treatment and offer consular advice in Makkah. There was a partnership among the British Government, the Saudi Government and the British Muslim Community. The Delegation used to comprise of 9 doctors, 3 consular officials and Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, the leader of the Delegation.
In this connection, it should also be mentioned that in the first two/ three years, so far as I remember, there was a British Hajj Advisory Committee where the Muslim organisations including ICC, MCB, UMO and others were members and they used to meet with the leader and staff of the British (Government official) Hajj Delegation and discussed about different aspects of Hajj.
British Hajj Consular Delegation, 2010-2011
In 2010, the British Hajj Consular Delegation was launched from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) by the Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister without Portfolio. “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, at the launching of the British Hajj Delegation on 27th of October 2010 from the Durbar Court, FCO, London.
In the year, 2011, the British Hajj Consular Delegation was launched from the Durbar Court of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the presence of Baroness Warsi, Cabinet Minister without Portfolio, Jeremy Browne, Foreign Office Minister and HE Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in the United Kingdom and Ireland on the 10th of October, 2011. The launching event was attended by Ambassadors, diplomatic representatives of different Muslim Embassies in London, Community leaders and media personnel.
British Hajj Delegation 2012 (Private initiative)
That was the brief history and functioning of the British Government official Hajj Delegation or which we can say the British Hajj Delegation (official/ government) (see details, visit http://islamicmonitor.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/hajj-and-british-muslims-historical.html) . Now the British Hajj Delegation launch that took place on 29th September this year, i.e. 2012 is not an official British Hajj Delegation, nor is it launched by Foreign Secretary or any Minister from Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). It is a British Muslim private initiative.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan
While welcoming the launching of the new organisation, British Hajj Delegation, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, mentioned about the remarkable initiative by the British Muslim community to help Hajjis. He said, “As far as I know there is nothing similar in Germany, France and Italy, or Spain or any other country in Europe. Foreign office gratefully participated for many years with this under the leadership of Lord Patel and who did a lot of efforts to let this committee or delegation continue to be a tradition of the Muslim community of this country. But unfortunately, for lot of circumstances and situations that was not possible.”
Dr. Dubayan said now it is the task of the Muslim community to continue this initiative and to let it flourish and develop.
On behalf of the British Muslim community, Dr. Dubayan acknowledged the support and all the efforts of the Saudi Embassy in the UK (whose representative is HE Abdul Rahman Al-Aneezi who is with us today) in tackling problems related to facilitation of the Hajis. He also appreciated the continuous support of Abdul Rahman Al-Aneezi, Counsellor of the Saudi Embassy in the UK all these years.
He also admired the efforts done by the Health Ministry of Saudi Arabia to guarantee to have safe Hajj every year and every season.
Referring to the large gathering of three to four million people coming together from all corners of the world, Dr. Dubayan said, “Let me say a big occasion needs a special kind of management; a special kind of care; a special kind of attention. This is something remarkable and it should not be forgotten and we should thank them for all the work they are doing in all these years.”
Dr. Dubayan further said that taking care of around four million Hajis who come from all walks of life is not an easy feat. He said that managing a pilgrimage of such a magnitude every year is indeed remarkable because the guests of Allah are given special care and attention.
HE Abdur Rahman Aneezi
HE Abdul Rahman Al-Aneezi, Counsellor from the Saudi Embassy in UK, said, “During Hajj, millions of Muslims, old and young, rich and poor from the world all over gather in one place, at the same time, standing together on an equal footing, and dressed as one. Hajj is a true reflection of the principles of Islam where no man or woman is better than another and all Muslims are equal in the eyes of God.”
“Hajj is an occasion where Muslims from all nations are given a golden opportunity to know each other better and learn more about each other’s issues and concerns and practice Islam’s teachings of compassion, tolerance, care, and cooperation with others,” said Mr.Al- Aneezi.
Mr. Al-Aneezi also mentioned, “In Saudi Arabia, we are truly blessed with the distinct honour and responsibility of being the custodians, stewards and servants of Islam’s most important holy places including the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This is a blessing that we thank God for, and a responsibility which we do not take lightly.”
“The kingdom puts its responsibility to Islam first. It puts an immense human, financial and administrative effort into caring for these sites and for pilgrims visiting them from around the world including British Muslims,” he said.
Mr. Aneezi also said, “Hardly a week or month passes without a new project being launched to improve and care for these holy sites.”
The number of Muslims visiting Saudi Arabia each year for religious reasons is expected to increase as the number of Muslims throughout the world continues to grow. Mr. Aneezi said, “As a result, the kingdom is constantly challenged to improve its facilities and the services it provides to meet the needs of this ever increasing number of pilgrims.”
He also enlightened the audience about the plan of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to expand the Prophets’ Mosque in Madinah.
Lord Adam Patel
Lord Adam Patel, chairman of the newly-formed Charity organisation, British Hajj Delegation, said the core of the British Hajj Delegation works is in the provision of the medical support to the British and other Hujjaj in Makkah and Mina.
Lord Patel praised the commitment and selfless dedication of the doctors who voluntarily give up 16 days of their time each year. He mentioned, “The doctors see a variety of medical condition, ranging from minor condition right through the most threatening one and having the advantage of British Delegation at Mina where the doctors are able to treat the minor conditions and refer to the serious ones to the local Saudi hospitals.”
Lord Patel mentioned, “A Report Commissioned by the UK Government Foreign & Commonwealth Office a few years ago estimated that over one million pounds are saved every year as a result of the work carried out by the British Hajj Delegation. Alhamdo Lillah. Just to put that into perspective we have now supported over 30,000 people in the last 11 years.”
Lord Patel also mentioned, “Looking after the estimated 25,000 pilgrims from the UK and the estimated two million from around the world is no easy task. No other country in the world has to do anything similar on an annual basis. If you just cast your mind back to a few months where our great city of London hosted the Olympic and Paralympics games how much planning went into that.”
“I am always impressed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in how it constantly meets the challenges that Hajj presents; not only that but how eager it is to serve the guests of Almighty Allah by continuously improving the infrastructure for Hajjis,” said Lord Patel and highlighted the works done at some of the key holy sites. These include expansion of the Haram and the Jamarat; the Mashair train that runs between Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, among many others.
While concluding his speech Lord Patel paid his “tribute to Baroness Scotland and the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who gave us valuable help in our infancy” and expressed his heartfelt thanks to “the Ambassador HE Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf and his officials in the Saudi embassy in London for their unrelenting support over the years. Of course to Dr. Dubayan, who was part of the team right from the beginning.”
Dr. Ali Hamed Gamdi
Dr. Ali Hamed S. Al-Ghamdi, Health Attache from the Saudi Cultural Bureau in UK mentioned, “We have a very good and unique experience in the world with managing health and crowd. The UK government during the Olympic games sought the advice of the Saudi government about how they can go to manage crowd in the Olympics.”
Mr. Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, and Baroness Paula Uddin, also addressed the gathering and promised their cooperation.