Britain has spent Â£100,000 on official delegation to Mecca
The Foreign Office has spent up to £100,000 of taxpayers' money on sending a British delegation on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
The group, led by two Labour peers, Lord Ahmed and Lord Patel of Blackburn, has travelled to Saudi Arabia for four years to "support" British Muslims among the 2 million pilgrims who go on the Haj. Britain is believed to be the only Christian country to send an official delegation on the pilgrimage. Christian pilgrims and Jews or Hindus visiting holy sites are understood not to receive similar support.
The British Haj delegation includes Foreign Office officials and doctors who can treat British pilgrims suffering from heat exhaustion and other ailments. The Foreign Office said it spent £30,000 on supporting the British delegation last year and £20,000 in previous years. It has already approved the budget for next year.
One anti-racism campaigner said the money would be better spent in Britain, promoting understanding between British Muslims and other racial and religious groups and supporting community projects. "This is a lot of money and it should be spent on promoting multiculturalism in Britain," said Tara Mukherjee, chairman of the London-based European Multicultural Foundation. "The money should be spent on helping to accommodate Muslims in a secular society."
About 50,000 British Muslims make the pilgrimage each year, many of whom are elderly, and an estimated 1,500 people sought help and advice from the British delegation.
Lord Ahmed said: "The involvement of the Foreign Office is useful. The delegation can treat people with minor diseases and cut the cost to the National Health Service. The British delegation put up big signposts and they give out leaflets to people so people can identify them."
- 1 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 3 Germanwings plane crash: I have depression. That doesn't make me a psychopath
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat
Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
Germanwings plane crash: Investigators may have already found remains of suspected killer co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
Children take eight Isis captives to be beheaded in latest propaganda video
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Recognised as one of the fastes...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...