Saudi ambassador leads sendoff for King Salman’s guests from Indonesia

Sunday, August 4, 2019

JAKARTA: An Islamic boarding school teacher, police officers, a journalist and a leader of Indonesia’s Muslim organization are among the 20 people invited to perform Hajj this year as guests of King Salman.

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi bade farewell to the king’s guests at his residence in the Menteng area in central Jakarta on Sunday.

Al-Thaqafi said that the king’s invitation is an annual tradition extended to Muslims around the world. In Indonesia, the guests were selected to represent various sections of society and different regions of Indonesia’s vast archipelago.

Indonesia has the highest quota at 231,000 pilgrims this year, the ambassador said.

He said that selecting people from different backgrounds and locations is also to facilitate the meeting and interaction of people from various places and walks of life in one place, as embodied in the Hajj pilgrimage.

Among the party of pilgrims is the director of the Jakarta police traffic department, Yusuf Sobir Kasnawi, who is invited along with his wife and nine staff from the department.

“Thank God, I never thought I would get this invitation. All this time, I am just doing my job as a traffic director to make sure the traffic runs smoothly whenever there are foreign guests or delegations, including from Saudi Arabia, visiting the city. This is indeed a gift from God,” Yusuf told Arab News.

Faiz Djafar Baradja, a teacher at an Islamic boarding school in Central Java. Photo/Supplied

However, this is not the first time that Yusuf will be performing Hajj. His first Hajj was in 2010.

Faiz Djafar Baradja, a 30-year-old teacher at Markaz Iqro pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, in Solo, Central Java province, is also among the guests.

“An acquaintance called me one night and asked me to provide him with my passport and other documents. I had no idea that it was for this purpose and I am really grateful for this blessing. This is my first time to go to Hajj,” said Faiz, who teaches at Markaz Iqro boarding school.

Other privileged pilgrims on the list included the treasurer of the Muslim mass organization Muhammadiyah and chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), Anwar Abbas, a deputy director of Jakarta police Vital Object Security (Pam Obvit), Erik Ferdinand, whose office is in charge of securing embassies, ambassadors’ residences and and other key places in the Indonesian capital, and the editor-in-chief of news portal, Alfito Deannova Gintings.

This is the second year that journalists have been included in the roster of pilgrims invited by the king.

Al-Thaqafi said Uhi, a 95-year-old man from West Java who departed to Hajj earlier in the week with his three children and two grandchildren after his video addressing the king of his wish to go to Hajj had gone viral and caught the attention of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is also a guest of the king.

But Uhi and his family members are not among the list of 20 guests — Uhi is a special guest because his departure from Jakarta and the welcome he received upon arrival in Jeddah were different from that of the 20 guests.

“I personally saw him off at the airport on the day of his departure. Uhi is special because he is not just the guest of the king, but also a guest of the crown prince and the Saudi people,” the ambassador said.

The 20 people invited to perform Hajj will get special treatment in terms of accommodation, transport and everything related to performing the Hajj rituals during the pilgrimage. The ambassador said there is a possibility that the special pilgrims would be able to meet the king in person in Mina.

The Hajj season is approaching its peak, and 198,588 out of the 231,000 pilgrims of the Indonesian quota have arrived in Madinah and Jeddah. The majority of them have moved to Makkah, according to data from the Religious Affairs Ministry.