Accra, Jan. 20, GNA - The Government has initiated the process to establish a permanent Hajj Board that would work all year long to eliminate the hardships and inconveniences associated with annual pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.
Vice President Aliu Mahama, who announced this when he joined Muslims at the Independence Square on Thursday to commemorate Eid-ul-Adha, indicated that the board would address problems pilgrims faced in Accra and in Mecca.
"While expressing government's sympathies for the inconveniences that pilgrims have encountered in the past, including the current Hajj, may I take this opportunity to assure all Muslims that we are at the threshold of resolving the matter once and for all," the Vice President said.
This was in response to a call in a preceding address on the Government by Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharabutu, National Chief Imam, to establish a permanent and effective committee to address the perennial problems faced by Muslim pilgrims.
Sheikh Sharabutu had blamed the hardships, which the recent pilgrims faced in Accra, on the "negligence, incompetence and to some extent bribery and corruption, fraudulent activities as well as greed of a few well-off persons".
He explained that the perpetrators of these deeds were people who were relatively well-off and whose main objective was to make quick and easy money off unsuspecting Hajj pilgrims, who were largely poor or old. Every year, Muslims are stranded in Accra as their flights are unduly delayed or failed to turn up.
Vice President Mahama reminded Muslims that Islam was a religion of peace and urged them, particularly those in Zongo communities, to live upright and decent lives to shed off the perception that they were indisciplined and not law abiding.
"The erroneous impression has been created in the past that Zongo communities are the dens of hooligans, criminals, trouble causers, among others.
"...On the contrary, Zongo Communities are known to be havens of peace and disciplined-attributes, which Islam enjoins Muslims to cultivate. Probably, the insistence of members of Zongo Communities on their rights has given rise to this misconception.
"Be it as it may, there is the urgent need for members of Zongo communities to correct this misconception by being law abiding and setting good examples in all spheres of life for others to emulate."
They should also embrace secular education as a means of empowering themselves to improve their standard of living and contributing meaningfully to national development.
The Government, he assured them, would pursue an agenda in its second term to make the standard of living better for Ghanaians. On the significance of the Festival, he said, its focus on thanksgiving and sacrifice was a wholesome combination of spiritual devotion and humanitarian benevolence.
Vice President Mahama, therefore, advised Muslims, particularly the youth, to be circumspect in the way they celebrated the festival. He condemned the practice whereby celebrants joined overloaded cars and carelessly rode motorcycles to entertain themselves.
He also asked them to avoid activities that would exposed them to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
The ancient festival of Eid-ul-Adha signifies total commitment, dedication and submission to the will of Allah as exhibited by the Prophet Ibrahim, the patriarch, when he willingly obeyed the command of Allah to sacrifice his son, Ishmael to him.
In line with the spirit of sacrifice, adult Muslims are enjoined to kill a ram, camel or cow as their offering to Allah. Muslims also distribute gifts on the occasion.
The Chief Imam later slaughtered two rams.
Ministers of State, Parliamentarians, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Muslim Leaders and a large number of worshippers attended the ceremony.