China / Society

Efforts made to increase number of hajj pilgrims

By Cui Jia (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-07 07:51

As Muslims around China celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Wednesday marking the end of Ramadan, the country is making efforts to take 1,000 more Muslims to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca this year to participate in the holy pilgrimage.

The number of Chinese pilgrims allowed into the holiest city of Islam has remained unchanged for years.

In 2015, 14,500 Chinese pilgrims from 27 provinces and regions went to Mecca for the hajj, which falls in September this year.

"We have applied to the Saudi government for permission to take 1,000 additional pilgrims to Mecca. That application is still being processed," said Ma Xiubang, the China Islamic Association's representative for hajj-related issues.

To make the pilgrimage - a religious duty - Chinese Muslims must register at the website of their local religious affairs bureau. The annual quota of pilgrims from each province and region depends on the size of its Muslim population.

Ma said the association will arrange an additional charter flight to take more Muslims from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region this year to reduce the long waiting time to make the hajj - often five to 10 years, and sometimes longer.

Xinjiang is home to 51 percent of China's Muslim population. Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang's top leader, said the annual pilgrimage should be treated as an important part of people's lives.

Chinese pilgrims will wear electric wristbands so their location can be tracked and they can be alerted of possible dangers.

In 2015, a stampede occurred in Mecca as pilgrims performed one of the hajj rituals. Saudi officials said the accident left 769 dead and 934 injured.

Earlier, in September, 111 pilgrims were killed and 331 others injured when heavy wind tipped over a crane outside the Grand Mosque.

On Wednesday morning, Eid al-Fitr prayers were said in mosques around China followed by a feast. The prayers at Doudian Mosque, in Beijing's Fangshan district, were crowded with people from near and far.

"Muslims can take the day off on Eid al-Fitr, so I was able to come to Doudian Mosque for the prayers," said Ma Fu, 28, an IT worker in Beijing.

In heavily Muslim-populated autonomous regions, like Xinjiang and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Eid al-Fitr is a public holiday. Xinjiang residents have the day off, and in Ningxia there is a three-day holiday.

As Beijing has become more internationalized, Doudian Mosque has seen an increasing number of foreign Muslims attending its religious services.

Abudulkadeer and Milun from Algeria were passing their first Eid al-Fitr in Beijing, after working near Doudian Mosque for three months. "The mosque and organization are really good," Milun said.

They snapped photos of the prayer hall and the Chinese style feast with the mobile phones to later share the moment with their families back home.

Hu Anqi contributed to this story

Efforts made to increase number of hajj pilgrims

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