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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid