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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid