British Muslims are being urged to delay booking a Hajj pilgrimage due to uncertainty relating to COVID-19 and announcement by the British government that lockdown could take longer than previously thought.
The Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) advised people planning a trip to Makkah to avoid entering into contracts with tour operators until the situation becomes clear.
Up to 25,000 British Muslims were expected to make the pilgrimage to the birthplace of Islam in Saudi Arabia in July.
CBHUK founder Rashid Mogradia said: “There seems to a lot of uncertainty over whether or not Hajj will take place this year.
“The Saudi authorities are taking the health and well-being of Muslims from all over the world wanting to undertake the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage seriously by suspending the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah, and advising people to defer making Hajj bookings until there is a clear picture on the spread of the coronavirus.”
He advised people with existing Hajj bookings to check they have booked a trip protected by the ATOL scheme and have been issued with the relevant certificate.
A spokesman for Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud, said: “Should this year’s Hajj pilgrimage be cancelled, criminals could use this as an opportunity to fraudulently offer refunds or alternative tours.
“Many people will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated if they are conned by fraudsters.”
Matt Buffey, head of consumer protection at the Civil Aviation Authority, which operates ATOL, said: “Making a booking through an agent that is not licensed by ATOL and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah risks both your money and your pilgrimage.”