French Muslims head to hajj despite government’s travel warning
Every year some 35,000 Muslims from France make the hajj pilgrimage
Thousands of French Muslims are performing hajj this year, despite travel warnings issued by the government against the backdrop of the fight against extremism in the region.
Every year some 35,000 Muslims from France make the hajj pilgrimage, according to Reuters news agency.
This year, an estimated three million people worldwide are expected to be making the spiritual journey which began on Thursday.
Ahead of the pilgrimage, some French Muslims were informed by imams on the different aspects of hajj.
“We prepare pilgrims both on a spiritual and psychological level,” Mustapha Dali, rector of the Mosque of Cannes in France, told Al Arabiya News.
Dali added that imams also offer pilgrims information about travel agencies authorized by French and Saudi Arabian authorities to organize their trip.
Dali said the imam of the mosque he works for is accompanying a group of French pilgrims during their journey to ensure they have a safe and rewarding experience.
In France, “SOS Pilgrims,” a private organization created by the “Hajj Academy,” offers classes to hopeful pilgrims wishing to prepare for the trip.
The hopeful worshippers are also offered advice on the health difficulties they may face and a number of preventive measures to take.
“We indicated to worshipers the necessary medical tests and vaccinations [they should have] before entering Saudi Arabia,” Dali said.
“Other than the Ebola virus, we also warned them about possible infections of foot-and-mouth disease,” he said.
Saudi Arabia said it has taken stringent measures to prevent an Ebola outbreak during hajj season and assure the safety of the pilgrims.
As part of the preventive measures, the Kingdom stopped issuing umrah and hajj visas to citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - the three African countries worst hit by the Ebola virus.
“We also advise those who are not physically capable of travelling to delegate someone to perform hajj on their behalf as it is a difficult experience that requires a good health level,” he added.
Recent warnings by the French government that its citizens should not to travel to the Middle East appear to have had limited impact on the desire to perform hajj.
“In the context of international coalition intervention against [ISIS] and in the face of an increased risk of kidnappings and hostile acts against citizens of countries part of the coalition,” people should avoid traveling to the region, the French Foreign Ministry warned last month.
Terrorism may have not played a role in the decision to attend hajj, but Dali said tough economic conditions in France affected some people’s decision making process.
“The great pilgrimage is expensive for French Muslims,” he said.
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