25,000 British Muslims to perform Hajj this year

LONDON: As many as 25,000 British Muslims will perform Hajj next month with popular delegation leader Lord Patel being dropped by the coalition government and replaced by a civil servant in a bid to curtail public spending.Lord Patel, a Labour peer had been leading British Hajj delegations since 1999 but Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British Cabinet Minister without portfolio, defended the Government decision saying that providing consular and medical support to British pilgrims are much more important than appointing any politician as a leader.Furthermore, she told a news conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Wednesday that the Government cannot accept backing of the trip by a delegation leader out of anti-terrorist funding.She named the official accompanying the delegation as Ahmad Patel who has no relations with Lord Patel of Blackburn.Speaking on the occasion, Jeremy Browne, FCO Minister of State, said the UK is one of a very small number of countries that send a dedicated delegation to the Hajj.Browne further stated that an FCO review in March 2010 recognised that Saudi medical facilities for pilgrims had improved significantly over the last ten years. As a result, the decision was taken to discontinue the medical element of the delegation but strengthen the consular element from two to three consular offices.
The delegation will provide consular services to British pilgrims and will comprise three experienced consular officers, an Urdu speaker who will lead the delegation supported by two Arabic speakers from the region.They will be based in Makkah from November 7 to November 18.Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammad Bin Nawaf Bin Abdul Aziz informed the media of the arrangements made by the Kingdom to ensure the safety of the pilgrims coming across the globe for the annual ritual.He said the Saudi authorities have left no stone unturned to ensure trouble free Hajj for the pilgrims – App