Accra, May 30, GNA - The Government provided 600,000 dollars to assist stranded pilgrims during this year's Hajj at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to return home.
President John Agyekum Kufuor, who announced this on Monday, said "the Government paid the money on the 'quiet' when it realised that most of the pilgrims were stranded".
Addressing a delegation from the Muslim Community led by Sheikh Osuman Nuhu Sharabutu, National Chief Imam, who paid a courtesy call on him at the Castle, Osu, President Kufuor said the Government was not responsible for the problems associated with this year's Hajj. He expressed regret about the haphazard manner the Hajj was organised and said "many people were disturbed about the work of the Hajj Organising Committee. It was not well organised to gladden the hearts of many Ghanaians."
President Kufuor commended the National Chief Imam for the establishment of a Nine-Member Fact-finding Committee on the 2005 Hajj to investigate the issue and pledged the Government's commitment to study the report and make its recommendations to avoid future problems. He gave the assurance that the Government respected religious freedom of the Muslim community and would not do anything to take the integrity of the Islamic faith away, adding, "we will do everything to support the faithful in the Islamic faith".
President Kufuor said some people participated in organising the Hajj to exploit the pilgrims for their selfish gains.
He said the Government would rather support the Muslim community to pursue organising the Hajj in a manner that would befit the religion for Muslims to go about their faith peacefully and without any undue discomfort.
"This is not a Government that would tamper with serious matters like religion. It would shed anything that would demean the holiness of the Hajj for pilgrims to undertake the pilgrimage in peace," he stressed.
President Kufuor directed that money provided by the Government of Saudi Arabia to construct a National Mosque at Kanda in Accra should be released to the Mosque Building Committee in bulk for work to commence on the project.
Sheikh Sharabutu, who was surprised to hear about the Government's gesture to the stranded pilgrims, expressed appreciation to the Government.
He appealed to the Government for more assistance to ensure incident-free Hajj in the future.
Alhaji Mamah Gado Mohammed, Chairman of the Hajj Fact-Finding Committee and Spokesman for the Muslim Community, said the Committee set up in February had completed its work and submitted a report to the National Chief Imam and the Government for study.
Among those present were Vice President Aliu Mahama, Mr Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani, Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Shiekh Ibrahim Cudjoe Quaye, Greater Accra Regional Minister. 30 May 05