MECCA: As the Haj season nears its peak, the Saudi Arabian government has introduced additional security measures to ensure the safety of the nearly 2 million pilgrims that will gather at Arafah.
Datuk Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia’s 1438H Haj Delegation, said besides more checks and inspections, an additional identification bracelet from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Haj and Umrah has also been issued to all pilgrims.
Malaysian pilgrims already had an identification tag and bracelet issued by Tabung Haji (TH) before they departed Malaysia to the Holy Land.
“The new bracelet is linked to the Saudi’s e-hajj system and is an additional safety feature this year. It has a QR-code that contains information about the pilgrim,” he said at a briefing to Malaysian media here.
Syed Saleh said the new bracelet will make it easier for Saudi authorities to identify and ensure that only official pilgrims take part in the Masyair phase of Haj — when all pilgrims move to Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina.
“This bracelet is something new this year to ensure no unwanted people are in the Haj areas. So, I advise our pilgrims to always wear their ID tags and bracelets. If they don’t have it on, it will take some time for authorities to verify their status,” he added.
According to Saudi press reports, the Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Bantan said more than 138,000 personnel have been deployed by various authorities for the Haj this year, and will serve all pilgrims — including the Iranians and Qataris — without any discrimination or bias.
However, the minister warned that any attempt to politicise the pilgrimage or disrupt the peaceful, tranquil and pious atmosphere will be sternly dealt with.
Syed Saleh reminded Malaysian pilgrims to not be influenced or follow people who are attending gatherings or processions that have nothing to do with the Haj worship.
“They should avoid these things which might endanger themselves. Don’t even be curious to see what the commotion is about. Pilgrims should focus on their worship,” he said.
Syed Saleh said so far, 70 per cent of Malaysian pilgrims have arrived in the Holy Land — 1,783 are still in Madinah and the rest in Mecca. To date, 80 flights have brought in Malaysian pilgrims, with 32 flights remaining.
By August 18, there will be no more Malaysian pilgrims in Madinah. All Malaysian pilgrims and Haj operations will be focused in Mecca.
He said the Saudi government will determine the start of Zulhijjah, the final month in the Islamic calendar, based on sighting of the moon on August 21.
“Once that is decided, we can calculate when Wukuf will be (the 9th of Zulhijjah). So, we should wait for the official announcement by the Saudi government,” Syed Saleh said.
According to Saudi statistics, as many as 570,568 pilgrims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia including 564,239 by air, 480 by sea and 5,849 by land.