News / Asia

Indian Supreme Court Orders End to Hajj Subsidies

Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2011.Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2011.
x
Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2011.
Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Kurt Achin

NEW DELHI - India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to do away with a program that subsidizes Muslims in their most sacred journey. Still, many of the country's Muslims are fine with the decision.

In this week's ruling, India's highest court said the subsidy for the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj "is best done away with." If all the facts were known, the ruling continues, many Muslims "would not be very comfortable that their Hajj is funded to a substantial extent by the government.”

Islam calls upon all of its followers to make a journey to the Saudi Arabian city and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad at least once in their lives, if they can afford it. Indigent Muslims are excused from the duty.

Indian history is punctuated with episodes of tensions between majority Hindus and minority Muslims. Still, many Muslim leaders say they are fine with the court's decision to scrap the Hajj subsidy.

Zafarul Islam Khan, the president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (an umbrella body of Indian Muslim organizations), sees the subsidy as an indirect way for India's government to fund its cash-starved national airline.

"Muslims in general are not in favor of the Hajj subsidy," said Khan. "We consider the subsidy as a subsidy to Air India and not to the Muslim community."

The practice of providing subsidies to Muslims began in 1973, when India's government abolished sea travel as an means of making the Hajj. At that time, the government began making up the difference between sea and air fares.

Khan says the decision was politically motivated from the very start.

"Actually we didn't demand subsidy any day but the government insisted on this just to show to normal and ordinary voters, Muslim voters, that they are doing a favor," said Khan.

An estimated 100,000 Indian Muslim pilgrims a year benefit from subsidized travel. Arman Khalid Hashmi went on the Hajj in 2011, and feels that a journey without government help would still be perfectly consistent with Islam.

"As a Muslim, it should be our money invested in Hajj," said Arman. "So if it is done away, it doesn't matter for us."

For many Indians, the strongest argument for ending the Hajj subsidy is that the country's constitution defines India as a secular republic -- with no special favoritism for any one religious faith group. The Supreme Court says the subsidy should be eliminated within 10 years.

Neha Sethi contributed to this report.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid