The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) advised Muslims in the country not to abuse the Tourist Visa and Umrah Visa for the purpose of performing the Haj pilgrimage.

In a statement today, Motac said the advice was issued to ensure that no Umrah pilgrims from Malaysia take the opportunity to overstay on the Holy Land until the Haj season.

As the ministry responsible for issuing permits to travel agencies offering umrah packages, MOTAC also advised umrah operators and pilgrims to complete the umrah pilgrimage before the start of the haj season, and to comply with the regulations set by the Saudi Arabian government.

The Haj season will start in the third week of June this year.

"MOTAC takes the matter seriously because it involves the interests and safety of Umrah pilgrims and tries to prevent the occurrence of untoward incidents, apart from maintaining the good relationship that has been established between the Malaysian and Saudi Arabian governments," read the statement.

The ministry said it is an offence under the regulations of the Saudi Arabian government to perform the Haj. pilgrimage without a valid permit.

Also, the Saudi Arabian government only recognises Haj permits issued by accredited institutions for each country such as the Pilgrims Fund Board or Tabung Haji (TH) in Malaysia, it said.

MOTAC said appropriate action will be taken if it is proven that it involves an umrah operator company licensed by the ministry.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency