Finance ministry: No restriction on umrah travel packages

Pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca.

PETALING JAYA: The finance ministry has rubbished a claim that the ministry and its minister, Lim Guan Eng, had instructed Muslims going on umrah to do so only through pilgrims fund Tabung Haji and not through private agents.

Referring to the claim made by Malaysia Today on Monday, the ministry today said this allegation was baseless and “fake news”.

It said it had not issued any such statement, as alleged by the news portal.

“These false accusations have ill intent, are defamatory and are lies,” a statement by the ministry said.

“According to the article, ‘Guan Eng will kill Malay businesses’, published by Malaysia Today (Feb 4, 2019), the aim of the false instruction was to ensure Tabung Haji monopolises the management of umrah trips.”

This would then ensure there was no room for private tourism companies owned by the Bumiputeras, it added.

“This article was published on Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Facebook page on Feb 4,” the statement added, referring to the controversial blogger who owns and manages Malaysia Today.

“This fake news was circulated only to incite anger among the public and bring about hatred towards the non-Muslim finance minister so that it would appear that he is interfering in Islamic affairs.”

The ministry has since lodged a police report against the spread of this “fake news” and will also be making a complaint to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

The Malaysia Today article was published by the “MT Webmaster” with the name SD Salleh preceding the article on Feb 4. It had more than 13,000 shares at press time.

In the article, the first paragraph states: “Lim Guan Eng, through his finance ministry, has issued an instruction so that Muslims in Malaysia who want to carry out their umrah can only do so through Tabung Haji.”

While the article made no references to where Lim supposedly made these remarks, it included a screengrab of a 2017 report that quoted a former Cabinet member as stating that “do-it-yourself” (DIY) umrahs are illegal in Saudi Arabia.

Those who offer such services must be registered and managed by a muassanah, said deputy tourism and culture minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, according to the 2017 Berita Harian report.

The Malaysia Today story, however, quoted Lim as saying the Pakatan Harapan government will arrest those who organised these DIY-type umrahs and all umrahs can be organised only through Tabung Haji.