Malaysia eyes strict scrutiny for pilgrims before going to Mecca

NUSAJAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysian pilgrims going to Mecca will soon have to undergo strict scrutiny before they are allowed to perform the umrah pilgrimage in Mecca.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the move was deemed necessary in view of missing Malaysian umrah pilgrims.

He said the Government wanted to make sure the purpose of them going to Mecca and Madinah was solely to perform the pilgrimage and not to join the Islamic State (ISUS) in Iraq and Syria.

“There are cases of pilgrims from Malaysia who went missing after performing the umrahto join the IS,” Nazri told reporters after visiting Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios here yesterday.

He said the screening of the umrah pilgrims would involve those travelling to Mecca individually as well as those going via packages offered by travel agents.

Nazri said the security agencies and authorities would have to come up with security procedures to ensure the pilgrims would return to the country after performing their umrah.

“We will work closely with the Saudi government to tackle the issue (of missing pilgrims) as the issuance of visas comes under their jurisdiction,’’ he said.

Nazri said apart from pilgrims, they would similarly look into Malaysians going for holiday abroad as they could also be going to Iraq and Syria via a third country to join ISIS.

It was reported that 60 Malaysians had already joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria.