The Minister for Inner Cities and Zongo Development, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid has justified the involvement of government’s annual organization of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
He said the rights of religious people in the country as enshrined in the constitution and the need to uphold those rights places a moral obligation on the government to support the organization of the pilgrimage.
Speaking on Point of View on Citi TV, he explained that the government’s involvement in Hajj was mainly organizational as the pilgrims usually bear their own cost for the entire pilgrimage.
“[Government cannot take itself out] because we have made this arrangement that allows us to factor religion into state arrangements…This pilgrimage is paid for by the Muslims. However because of the volatility of the exchange rate, government [sometimes] pays the difference,” he said.
Mustapha Abdul-Hamid explained that Ghana would still have been forced to be involved in the organization of Hajj as the authorities in Saudi Arabia, where Muslims all over the world converge for the Hajj prefer to engage with government in preparing to host the pilgrims.
“This is the second important reason why we cannot take government out of the Hajj. The Saudi government recognizes only a government-to-government relationship. When people come there, they deal with them according to nation,” he said.
The question about the state’s involvement in the organization of Mecca has been a controversial subject over the years in Ghana.
In 2017, a former National Youth Organiser of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), James Kwabena Bomfeh, sued the government at the Supreme Court over its involvement in the organization of the Hajj Pilgrimage.
He was seeking an order that the setting up of a National Hajj Board and offering assistance by government was unconstitutional.
Among the reliefs he wanted from the court, was a declaration that the government, the organs including ministries, departments, agencies or authorised representatives cannot purposely aid, support, sponsor or offer preferential governmental promotion or be excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice and also a declaration that that the setting up of a National Hajj Board and offering assistance by government was unconstitutional.