‘Haj subsidy unIslamic, use that money on our education, health’

At a time when even the Prime Minister is emphasising that Muslims need to be given greater access to modern education to remove their social backwardness, several Muslim intellectuals, religious scholars and leaders are suggesting that the Government scrap the Haj subsidy and spend the money instead on schools, healthcare and other basic infrastructure for the welfare of the community. Some even describe the subsidy as "vote-bank politics" and say it's unIslamic to undertake any obligation during Haj.

Demanding an end to the subsidy, Maulana Mehmood Madani, Rajya Sabha member and general secretary of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, says "It is against the Shariat to be under any kind of obligation while undertaking Haj. According to the Quran, only those Muslims who can afford the expenses should perform Haj. It's recommended only for adult, financially able and sane Muslims."

Others like S Q R Ilyas, convenor of the Babri Masjid Committee and a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), call the Haj subsidy "a sop to gain political mileage."

Over Rs 180 crore has been offered as Haj subsidy for this year's pilgrimage which, according to Haj Committee CEO Mohammad Owais, will be undertaken by around one lakh people. The committee has been asked by the Ministry of External Affairs to collect Rs 12,000 from each person towards airfare.

Owais has his own take on the subsidy issue. "There is no doubt that it is unIslamic and one should not be under any obligation while undertaking Haj. But we want travel to be made an open competition. We should be allowed to place bulk orders with the airline which quotes the lowest price for a ticket. As of now, we are bound by the Government to travel by Air India." In fact the Central Haj committee convened a meeting today of all state committees to discuss this issue.

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