Indonesian Clerics Ask Saudis to Drop Hajj Vaccination

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia’s top Muslim body has called on Saudi Arabia to drop a mandatory meningitis vaccination for hajj pilgrims, claiming the injection contains an enzyme from a pig, seen as unclean in Islam.

“We sent a letter to the Saudi government over the required meningitis vaccination for the pilgrims following our findings that it contains a pig substance,” the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, Ma’ruf Amin, said on Monday.

Amin said the vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline had confirmed that a pig enzyme was used in the early stages of production of the vaccine, but was not in the final product.

“The manufacturing company said that using a porcine enzyme in the initial process of its production is unavoidable,” he said.

“As the hajj pilgrimage is a religious obligation, we have asked the Saudi authorities not to insist on the meningitis vaccination requirement,” Amin said, adding that if necessary, an alternative should be found.

The hajj to holy sites in Saudi Arabia is one of the five pillars of Islam that the Koran says Muslims must carry out at least once in their lives if they are well enough and can afford it.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslim, most of whom practise a moderate version of the religion. Consumption of pork is forbidden under Islam.

An official at Indonesia’s religious affairs ministry said Saudi Arabia has required pilgrims to have a meningitis vaccination for 10 years, following an outbreak that originated with African pilgrims.

“Can you imagine what if one of our pilgrims came home with meningitis? he or she could spread the disease,” the official, Abdul Ghafur Djawahir, was quoted by the Jakarta Globe newspaper as saying.

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