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Austrian Muslims head to Makkah to perform Hajj

VIENNA, Dec 13 (KUNA) — The gathering of pilgrims in their white clothes in Vienna International Airport has became a familiar every year, as Muslims prepare for going to Holy Makkah, Saudi Arabia, for pilgrimage.
Austrian Muslims, from European, Turkish, Balkan, and Arab origins, are about 400,000 and Islam is the second wide spread religion here after Christianity.
President of the Islamic Community of Austria Anas Schakfeh hoped that a new law would be applied to organize the Austrian pilgrims’ expeditions to Makkah.
He told KUNA on Thursday that Austrian President Hanz Fischer discussed the issue with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia during his visit to the kingdom in 2006.
Fischer told King Abdullah that Austria wants the official Islamic Community of Austria to arrange the pilgrims’ journeys instead of letting everyone organize his or her journey individually, he said.
Saudi officials welcomed the idea, especially because it would contribute in organizing the pilgrims and ease things for them.
Schakfeh pointed out that the number of pilgrims from Austria and its neighboring countries increased due to the cooperation of Austrian authorities with Muslims and their respect to the religious values that were protected by the Austrian “Islam Law” passed in 1912.
He praised the efforts of the Saudi government in helping the pilgrims.
He said the Islamic Community of Austria holds an international conference on Islam every three years and the next conference, adding that it is preparing for in international conference for dialogue among religions that will be held next April.
The Islamic Community of Austria was established under the supervision of the Muslim World League.
Muslims from around the world head to Makkah during Thi Al-Hijja month on the lunar calendar to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.