Tara Marchelin, Jakarta – The Religious Affairs Ministry has prepared two different scenarios for the 2020 hajj pilgrimage for Indonesian Muslims – many of whom have waited for years to go on the trip – while waiting for an official decision from Saudi Arabia whether or not to allow this year's hajj season to go on.
Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Zainut Tauhid said the first scenario is to proceed with the hajj pilgrimage but apply a new quota restriction.
The second option is to suspend this year's pilgrimage if Saudi Arabia can't come up with a decision before the government's deadline.
"The hajj quota will have to be cut due to the Covid-19 pandemic, maybe by around 50 percent so physical distancing is possible," Zainut said in a teleconference with the House of Representatives' Commission VIII – which oversees religious and social affairs – on Monday.
The Religious Affairs Ministry will determine more selectively which pilgrims will be allowed to go on the hajj according to how long they have been waiting for their turn, their age and risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Zainut said pilgrims who have already paid for their hajj trip but are not selected this year can get a refund and their names will be put on top of the list next year.
Those who have passed their medical examination by the Health Ministry will not have to take it again next year.
"We have a new health protocol that pilgrims will have to follow closely even before they enter the hajj dormitory here," Zainut said.
Training for the hajj rites and ceremonies (manasik) for the pilgrims and training for hajj officials who would accompany them will be held online.
The training for the officials will also feature more instructions on limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
If the 2020 hajj season is suspended eventually, according to Zainut pilgrims who have already paid for their trip will have two options.
"They will be put on top of the list for the hajj season next year but will have to pay any additional cost. Or they can get a full refund and pay the new full amount for their trip next year," Zainut said.
The ministry will negotiate with the Saudi government to get the refunds or get the money reallocated for next year.
"We will pay all the costs that have already accrued this year and report the risks to the ministry's General Inspector and also to the Supreme Audit Agency," Zainut said.
To avoid the case from dragging on, Zainut said the Indonesian government should set a deadline for the Saudi government to give their decision. "May 20 should be our deadline," he said.
Commission VIII member Idah Habibie said the deadline could also help prevent confusion and chaos among the prospective pilgrims. "Don't let the pilgrims wait too long. You don't want to create chaos and confusion for them," she said.
Commission VIII Deputy Chairman Ace Hasan Syadzily said the government should carefully recalculate the cost of sending the pilgrims to Mecca if their quota is cut.
"Cutting the quota will affect the costs of the dormitory, transportation and catering," Ace said.
Ace said further discussions are needed between the Religious Affairs Ministry and Commission VIII to resolve the issue.