MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - Starting next year the Saudi Arabian authorities will demand that all hajj pilgrims, including those from Russia, be fingerprinted, the Russian government’s point man for religious affairs said on Friday.
Ilyas Umakhanov, who is also deputy Federation Council speaker, said the measure was being introduced because the Saudi authorities have decided to give priority to first-time pilgrims, which called for special security arrangements.
“A centralized data base on pilgrims from all over the world will be created,” he said.
Russia earlier received an official note from Saudi Arabia saying that visas will no longer be issued without fingerprinting.
Umakhanov said the Russian hajj pilgrim quota, set by Saudi Arabia, is 20,500, adding that he did not quite understand what the fingerprinting procedure will actually be like.
One of the Five Pillars of Islam, every able-bodied Muslim is encouraged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, at least once in their life.
Khamzat Durdiyev, deputy mufti of Chechnya, said he personally knew people who had performed the hajj 10-15 times, and even some who had done so 20 times.
“Sometimes it can look like a competition,” he said.