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Iraqis Prefer Hajj to Elections
 

By Mazen Ghazi, IOL Correspondent

BAGHDAD, January 7 (IslamOnline.net) – Showing little, if any, interest in the January 30 controversial general elections in the war-torn country, most Iraqis are willing to go for the spiritual journey of hajj this year.

More than 32,000 Iraqi pilgrims are to perform hajj, out of over 750,000 that have sought to perform the fifth pillar of Islam.

“The number of Iraqi pilgrims reaches 32,000 this year, all of whom are eligible for casting ballot in the elections,” Burham Saleh, deputy of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told IslamOnline.net.

He added the Saudi authorities have agreed to increase the quota of pilgrims for by some 10,000.

Over three quarters of a million Iraqis have applied for the Sunni and Shiite Waqf (religious endowment) authorities to perform hajj, according to sources at the Waqf authorities.

Saudi Arabia allows one percent of the population of each Muslim country to perform hajj every year, in accordance with the resolution of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Iraqi Elections

Asked by IOL on the possible reasons behind the hike in hajj-seekers’ numbers compared with the little interest shown in following up the coming elections, most Iraqis believed the spiritual journey to be “more payable than the elections they see as not in the interest of their country.”

“I would not cast ballot in the elections. Hajj, for me, is far more important than the polls which only aim at legitimizing the US occupation,” Mohamed Salah, 62, told IOL.

Hadi Al-Kaabi, an Iraqi travel agent, had the same reasoning.

“Most Iraqis believe free and fair elections are in their best interest. But under the present conditions, those who have a chance to perform hajj do not think twice.”

The Iraqi voters are to choose a 275-member assembly, which will be charged with writing the first permanent constitution in post-Saddam era.

If adopted in a referendum later this year, the constitution would form the legal basis for another general elections to be held by December, 2005.

Dramatic Increase

 

 

The number of the Iraqi pilgrims has dramatically increased from only 3,000 during former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's era to 32,000 pilgrims, Diaa Mohamed, media manager of the Sunni Waqfs authority, told IOL.

He added that more Iraqi citizens are willing to perform the fifth pillar of Islam.

Most Iraqi pilgrims were chosen by the Shiite and Sunni Waqfs authorities in accordance with the ration card and population density in every Iraqi governorate, he added.

Some 450 Iraqi pilgrims have already left Iraq on January 1, for Saudi Arabia aboard two Iraqi planes to perform hajj.

Flights for the Saudi lands carrying Iraqi pilgrims will continue for 12 days, two flights a day.

A flight ticket from Iraq to Saudi Arabia costs 600 US dollars, but it costs only 500 dollars for a road trip to Saudi Arabia, including visa fees and accommodation.

For the first time, a plane took off from the Irbil airport January 1, carrying Kurdish pilgrims for Saudi Arabia to perform hajj.

The Ministry of Waqfs and Islamic Affairs in the self-rule region of Kurdistan ,  in cooperation with the Iraqi transport ministry, provided three planes to carry Kurdish pilgrims to the Saudi lands to perform the fifth pillar of Islam, according to the Iraqi Mashreq newspaper January 3.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and an essential part of Muslims’ faith and practice on the condition of physical and financial ability.

It consists of several ceremonies meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

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