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.
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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid