Annual pilgrimage applications in Turkey go online

April 19, 2011, Tuesday/ 17:03:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Applications for this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage will be completed online in a first-time initiative by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs.

Turks applying to visit the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage at booths set up at mufti offices will soon be able to submit their application via the directorate’s web site. Both first-time applicants and those renewing their applications will be able do so electronically. In a statement to the press, Deputy Director of the Directorate of Religious Affairs Ekrem Keleş revealed that applications this year would be made April 25-May 6. Describing the new system in place this year, Keleş said that citizens, especially the elderly, will be able to apply without waiting in line for extended periods of time. He said special software had been developed and that applications can be made via the directorate’s web site once the system is tested, noting that that the directorate would make special announcements telling citizens how to apply over the Internet.

Keleş stated that 710,000 people applied to go on pilgrimage last year. “We do not want all of these people to go to mufti offices. It can be very difficult for them. As a result of this program, citizens will log onto the site with their national identification number and update their information if necessary during the application renewal process. Those applying for the first time will be able to apply online after making a TL 15 registration payment to banks that we have an agreement with. There are those who insist on going to mufti offices in person and the registry booths will remain open for them,” he added. Keleş also described the lottery system that has been in use since 2007 to select the hajj candidates. A coefficient value is assigned to each participant in order to increase the chances for those who have applied many times. He said that this system reduced the accumulated number of participants, noting that the earliest applicants in the system were from 2007. With this system, the name of each candidate applying every year since 2007 will be added to the lottery 25 times. Those applying each year since 2008 will be added 16 times, those applying since 2009 will have nine chances, and those applying since 2010 will have four in the hajj lottery.

According to Keleş, Turkey is at the forefront of hajj application systems. “The Directorate of Religious Affairs’ hajj system is acclaimed worldwide and is one of the leading systems,” he said. 

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