Malaysia’s pilgrimage insurance scheme scrapped

Public objections cause scheme to be cancelled just a day after its unveiling

Malaysia’s pilgrimage insurance scheme scrapped

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

The Malaysian government has cancelled a newly launched visa and insurance system for umrah (Islamic pilgrimage) after a negative public reaction.

The Integrated Manasik Monitoring System (IMAMS) was scrapped just a day after it was announced by Tourism and Culture Deputy Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, who touted it as a better way to manage Muslim pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, reported the Straits Times.

Under the scheme, each pilgrim would have paid an MYR90.10 (US$22) to visit the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Of that amount, MYR40 (US$9.80) would have served as insurance premium, while the remainder was the fee to use the system plus the goods and services tax.

According to the ST report, a typical umrah travel package costs at least MYR6,000 (US$1,470), so the IMAMS system would only increase the total cost by around 1.5%. Around 200,000 Malaysian pilgrims journey to Saudi Arabia annually, meaning IMAMS would have generated revenue of more then MYR18 million each year.

However, the insertion of the already unpopular goods and services tax, having a middleman company, and having a non-Muslim managing IMAMS raised objections among the public.

The Association of Umrah and Haj Travel Agents (Papuh) said that the IMAMS, which had been developed by the tourism ministry over the course of several months, was unnecessary.

“Why is a company set up six days ago appointed to supervise Imams? For Papuh, the handling of the system isn't clear,” Papuh chairman Razali Mohd Sham was quoted as saying by Malay news channel Astro Awani.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak supported the cancellation of IMAMS, saying he disagreed with the program’s implementation.

“I disagree with the IMAMS system being used for umrah visas,” he tweeted. “The announcement to cancel it is the right one.”

Related stories:
Malaysia set to improve professional standards for Islamic insurance
Hospitalized Muslim pilgrim passes away
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