Morocco’s 2020 Hajj Decision Depends on Saudi Arabia

Friday, May 29, 2020

Morocco is still waiting for Saudi Arabia to make an official decision on the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage before making its own, Moroccan Minister of Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq announced on May 28.

“Only Saudi authorities can take the final decision,” the minister said during a meeting with the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs to discuss the 2020 pilgrimage season. Hajj is set to take place between the last week of July and the first week of August.

“We can only take our own decision in light of the Saudi one,” Toufiq added.

So far, Morocco has not made any logistical arrangements for the pilgrims scheduled to go on Hajj under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Toufiq revealed.

The ministry has not signed any contracts for accommodation, catering, and transportation of Moroccan pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, the minister continued.

The 2020 Hajj pilgrimage, even if it goes ahead, will be exceptional as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in Saudi Arabia.

On May 28, Saudi Arabia confirmed 1,644 new COVID-19 cases. In total, the country has confirmed 80,185 cases, including 25,191 active cases.

The Hajj season, which attracted nearly 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world in 2019, would represent a major health risk and could lead to an unprecedented spread of the pandemic if the government does not take preventive measures.

In late February, Saudi Arabia banned the Umrah pilgrimage, a pilgrimage Muslims can perform at any time of the year, to curb the spread of COVID-19. The ban will remain active until the end of June at least, as the holy city of Mecca remains under lockdown.

While Saudi authorities were quick to ban Umrah, they have delayed a decision concerning Hajj. Not only is Hajj one of the pillars of Islam with great importance for Muslims, but it is also a major source of revenue for Saudi Arabia.

Hajj generates approximately $8 billion for Saudi Arabia every year. The Saudi economy has already taken a hit because of the unprecedented drop in oil prices due to COVID-19.

Possible solutions to the Hajj situation, besides cancelling it altogether, might include reducing the number of pilgrims or banning people at high risk of a severe COVID-19 case, in addition to health monitoring, disinfection, and even quarantines.

While the majority of Muslim countries are still awaiting the Saudi decision before coming up with their own, some countries, such as Singapore, have already announced they will not send any pilgrims this year. Others, such as Indonesia, are set to make a decision in the next few days.

In Morocco, 34,000 citizens have been selected to take part in the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage. The future pilgrims have already made payments to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and to travel agencies for their trip, accommodation, and catering. However, uncertainty will continue to surround their Hajj plans until Moroccan authorities make a decision.