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Friday, Oct 31 , 2014 ( Muharram, 1436)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Hajj Fraud Worries UK Muslims

OnIslam & News Agencies
UK Warns Against Hajj Fraud
Although UK Hajj quote has been reduced from 25,000 to 20,000 pilgrims, CBH officials expect an increase in the level of crimes.

LONDON – As thousands of British Muslims prepare for the life-time journey of hajj, British authorities have launched a new campaign to spread awareness about increasing number of fraudulent trips on sale to Makkah.

“A devastating crime that every year is robbing Muslims of a once in a life-time opportunity to make the pilgrimage to Mecca,” Commander Steve Head described Hajj fraud in a statement published by the City of London Police and cited by Al-Arabiya.

Concerned about the number of fraudulent packages on sale, the Council of British Hajjis (CBH) and the City of London police announced to launch the he “Hajj Fraud Awareness Campaign” this week.

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The CBH urged pilgrims to report fraud cases regardless of the consequences to eliminate them.

“The problem is people often don’t come forward and report it [fraud], out of embarrassment or repercussions from the tour operators themselves. People are frightened of the consequences of taking it further,” CBH CEO Rashid Mogradia said.

“People know who these people are, and they often feel that it’s not worth taking it forward, so they suffer in silence,” he added.

According to hajj operators, pilgrims’ silence over the fraud has lead to increasing the cost of hajj packages.

“Fraudulent companies are charging similar amounts of money [to legitimate tour providers], you can’t distinguish by price,” said Juel Choudhury, director of British company Premier Hajj.

“They’re not ripping them off with prices, they’re selling a package they can’t fulfil,” he added.

Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.

CBH considers managing Hajj in 2013 a ‘challenging’ task after the Saudi authorities decided to reduce pilgrims number from abroad by 20%.

The cuts aim to avoid stampedes during hajj and ensure the safety of the Muslim pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia is currently working to expand the two holy mosques in Makkah to accommodate more pilgrims in the coming years.

Shunning Fraud

Guiding pilgrims how to avoid Hajj fraud, the Council of British Hajji CEO has offered a list of precious tips to would-be pilgrims.

“Number one: check that the tour operator is signed up to an ATOL scheme,” Mogradia advised,” said Mogradia, director of Premier Hajj.

“Number two: check that the company has the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj accreditation.

“Number three: that they’re a legitimate business in the UK, which can be checked by going to Companies House.

“Number four: talk to family and friends for personal recommendations

“Number five: visit the tour operator at their business address. We’ve had instances in the past where people have sent a payment online, and found that when they go to the alleged business address, there’s no business, it’s a boarded-up shop.”

Pilgrims were also advised to make payments by credit card to avoid fraud.

“That way there’s a money trail, and a paper trail as well,” Mogradia said.

Although UK Hajj quote has been reduced from 25,000 to 20,000 pilgrims, CBH officials expect an increase in the level of crimes.

“We expect the figure to be at least around the 1,000 mark, maybe a few thousand.” CBH CEO Rashid Mogradia told Al- Arabiya.

Last year, UK police received 44 reports of hajj fraud, a much less percentage than actual figure, CBH said.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

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

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.

Related Links:
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British Museum To Host Hajj Exhibition
UK Sister Reflects on Hajj

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