Hajj: Is it the State’s Business?

In a country where Hindus are not allowed to register their marriages, and all non-Muslims live under constant threat of the blasphemy law, government-sponsored hajj is not an issue that takes priority. But it is certainly an issue worth looking into.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs Pakistan conducts a lucky-draw every year, from which thousands of Muslim citizens are selected. These lucky winners are sent on a state-sponsored pilgrimage, or hajj, to Saudi Arabia…

..which I personally find is a ridiculous waste of money for a country cursed with ever-present economic instability.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford it. Even from an Islamic perspective, there’s no real necessity to sponsor such expensive trips, because hajj is not even an obligation for the poor! Those who can afford the trip can pay their own way. After all, doesn’t spending your own hard, earned money on hajj make the endeavour far more noble?

You wouldn’t dream of sending a Pakistani Christian to the Vatican city for papal blessings on the government’s expense. Can you imagine a Pakistani Sikh applying for government sponsorship to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, or a Hindu asking the government for money to attend the Khumb Mela? Is it too much for the Pakistani non-Muslims to demand the same privileges that are readily offered to the Muslims?

Not to mention that this extravaganza is being funded by Muslim and non-Muslim tax-payer alike. A part of the money that I, as an Atheist, pay to the government is being spent on an Islamic event that I do not believe in, and does not benefit me in any way. In fact, it does not really benefit anyone.

I don’t need to be taxed for your religious affairs. I’m already paying enough by being discriminated against every single day by the society and the government, and I dare say, it’s sufficient.

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    • Arb
    • October 17th, 2011

    It would be nice if there could be a “Quiet Revolution” in Pakistan as has happened in other priest-ridden societies:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiet_Revolution

    • Joji
    • November 4th, 2011

    Okay lets start it at that I have been a silent reader of your blog for quite a while. Sometimes you do put your thoughts eloquently and discuss on matters which really matter. But most of times its mostly mullah bashings and just blaming the sky, the earth and everything in between.

    Your current post is quite an excellent example of such. You do realize that there are 95% muslims in Pakistan? So we can safely assume that the share of ‘muslim-tax-collected’ would be of similar percentage? Whats wrong with that?? I do agree with you that the practice might not be appreciable in current economic circumstances, but there are million of expenditures you can find in the current government budge which are even more horrendous and require a second thought. The problem then my friend lies with the government, not muslims / non-muslims or hajj. This is a social issue, don’t make it a religious one.

    You mentioned that a sikh or a hindu would never be given the option to go on a pilgrimage. Let me tell you a small incident. One of my relatives who are now residents in ‘uncle sam’s utopia’ for a few decades now wrote a letter to the relevant department that they don’t want their tax dollars to be used in the war, the reply came that we do respect your aspirations but the greater consensus is not inline with your ideas. so we are sorry. So? Again, don’t paint a social issue in religious light.

    This is what is called democracy, the opinion of a significant number of people in society is what actually matters. Its the same in every single country .. expect obviously dictator ships.

    I don’t have such an eloquent way of penning down my thoughts like your goodself but I do think that you need to be unbiased when looking at things. If you view everything from behind your hate-tainted glasses everything will seem as you want it to be.

    When I first started reading your thoughts, I was kinda satisfied to find such voices amongst Pakistani public, relieved even. But later on I realized that you are just another hate-spewing, bias and trageted bashing blog.

    • Joji,
      I have failed to explain my view to you fully. I shall try again.

      I have nothing against the Islamic practice of hajj. As a libertarian, I believe that people can spend their money however they want. Just don’t take such liberties with MY money. If a Muslim living in France is forced to pay for a Catholic’s trip to Vatican for papal blessings, his grievance would be just as valid.

      The funding for the Ministry of Religious Affairs is by no means meagre. And even if it is, it is the cumulative effect of small wasteful spendings in all sectors that drive the economy off the cliff. Your observation that there are departments whose expenditures are even more extravagant is accurate, but that does not exempt the Ministry of religious Affairs from scrutiny.

      What you’re referring to is not democracy, but mob-theocracy. Being a silent reader of my blog, you might have read something about this in my last entry (A Lesser Pakistani).

      The example you gave about your relatives is not pertinent to this discussion. The “defence budget” is used for the defence of a Muslim and Christian American alike. Your relatives cannot refuse to pay tax for a service they are the beneficiaries of. Hajj, on the other hand, benefits neither me nor my surroundings. It just has personal benefits for some Muslims, and in a way that does not reflect as a general improvement of this country’s socio-economic status (maybe Saudi Arabia’s socio-economic status, but certainly not ours).

      By the way, you’re being unduly presumptuous in believing that America for me is even close to “utopia”. I have always been a firm protester of US wars, as well as many other of its foreign policies.

      The grievances of the minorities, and their pleas to end the flaunting religious values through our joint constitution, are often dismissed as “hate-spewing” by the privileged class of our society – the Muslims. But things are awfully different when you’re a non-Islamic subject who made the mistake of being born in an Islamic republic.

      I don’t sell hatred, or anger. My only intention is to raise awareness.

    • Khan
    • March 7th, 2012

    The premise for this article is incorrect. The lucky draw is to select people who can go…not to sponsor them. Each country in the world gets a quota from the Saudi government on how many people they can send as otherwise too many people may show up. Each Pakistani who “wins” this lucky draw then pays the Pakistani state or a private enterprise for arranging everything. This includes transportation, lodging and health. The state basically facilitates the entire process so that every individual who wants to go for Hajj gets an equal chance and is not discriminated against. Each person bears his own expense otherwise you would see all Pakistanis consistently applying for Hajj. You should have checked up with the Ministry of Religious Affairs before you wrote this article. They do a great job which includes coaching people on how to do international travel.

    • My family, and several other people I know, have been to hajj without winning the lucky draw. You can go as you please, you just have to pay more for the hajj package.

      And yes, the government does sponsor hajj. Banks do it all the time with zakat money.

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