Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Window on Eurasia: 100,000 Daghestanis Have Made the Haj Since 1997

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 25 – Over the last decade, some 100,000 Muslims from Daghestan have made the haj to Mecca, including 13,500 last year. But this year, the quota for that republic has been set at 12,000, forcing officials to rank those applying to make this pilgrimage.
Akhmed Magomedov, the head of the Daghestani government’s Committee on Religious Affairs, said this week that the number wanting to make the haj this year is “much greater” than the quota the Russian Haj Committee has offered the republic (http://www.regrus.info/news/195.html)
This year, the Saudis, who oversee the haj as the owners of the Holy Places, set the quota for Russia as a whole at 20,500, one-tenth of one percent of the estimated number of Muslims living there. And as in the past, Daghestan has been allocated a disproportionate share of the number of slots.
(According to the 2002 Russian census, Daghestan’s population is just over 2.5 million. Even though most of them are Muslims, Daghestani residents form only a little more than 10 percent of the total number of Muslims in the Russian Federation that is the basis of the Saudi quota for the country as a whole.)
Since 1997, Magomedov noted, more than 120,000 Muslims from Russia have made the pilgrimage that all Muslims capable of doing so are required to perform at least once in their lifetimes. Of that number about “80 percent” – or 100,000 – were from Daghestan alone.
Magomedov said that officials in Makhachkala were ranking those applying to go according to two criteria: those who have never been on the haj before, and those who were unable to go last year even though they had applied. Such criteria, of course, suggest that some Daghestani Muslims have gone more than once.
Magomedov added that 40 percent of the Daghestanis planning to go on the haj this year will do so by air – some 5120 on the 32 special flights than will travel from Makhachkala to Saudi airports. The remainder will make the trip by bus or in a very few cases by car.

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