Singapore asks Saudi Arabia for increase in haj quota, from 680 to 800

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (left) with Saudi Hajj Minister Bandar Mohammed Al-Hajjar during an exchange of gifts.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (left) with Saudi Hajj Minister Bandar Mohammed Al-Hajjar during an exchange of gifts.PHOTO: MUIS
Muslim pilgrims gathered near Namirah Mosque in Arafah while performing the Haj pilgrimage.
Muslim pilgrims gathered near Namirah Mosque in Arafah while performing the Haj pilgrimage. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written a letter to the Saudi King, appealing for Singapore's official haj quota to be increased.

The letter was presented to a Saudi minister by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, on Thursday.

Dr Yaacob is in Saudi Arabia till Friday (Feb 12) with chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Haji Abdul Razak Maricar, and other officials for the annual Haj ministerial meeting to discuss the haj quota and operations, as well as the welfare of Singaporean pilgrims.

In the letter, PM Lee said that he is seeking King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud's consideration in changing the quota from 680 to 800, in line with Singapore's growing Muslim population.

He said that Singapore's current quota of 680 was based on the formula decided by the Organisation of Islamic Conference in 1987, which determined that the haj quota will be set at 0.1 per cent of the Muslim population.

"Since then, Singapore's Muslim population has grown by about 20 per cent but our quota has remained unchanged," he wrote. About 15 per cent, or 800,000 of Singapore's current population, are Muslims, he said.

He also made a personal appeal to the King to grant an additional 200 places on top of the revised quota this year.

PM Lee also conveyed his appreciation for King Salman's generous hospitality accorded to Singaporean pilgrims over the years.

"I appreciate the heavy responsibility and complexity of the Haj operations undertaken by the Kingdom," he wrote.

PM Lee added that ongoing efforts to enhance the infrastructure and the Haj management system have benefitted the welfare and safety of pilgrims.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg