By Hany Salah, IOL Correspondent
CAIRO – Romania's two biggest Muslim organizations have joined hands for the first time to co-organize the annual hajj journey, a move see as an important step towards uniting Muslim organizations in the eastern European country.
"We have been working for this end since the beginning of the year," Dr. Abu Al-Ala Alghithi, the director of Taiba Foundation, told IslamOnline.net over the phone from Bucharest.
"I visited Saudi Arabia twice thus year with Mufti of Romania Iusuf Murat and officially requested that Romanian Ifta' House be given the status of an official hajj organizer," he added.
Alghithi noted that the Saudi approval came only ten days ago.
"But we have placed all our expertise and people at the disposal of the Ifta' House to help organize the hajj journey."
The total number of Romanian pilgrims this year is estimated at 143, including 88 people who are going under the joint umbrella of the Ifta' House and Taiba.
Twenty five people are benefiting from the free hajj trips offered by Saudi Arabia while the remaining 30 are either traveling on their own or through other organizations.
"This is an excellent number in view of the fact that we only had less than seven days (since the Saudi approval)," Alghithi explained.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim -- who can financially afford the trip -- must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.
Hajj, the world’s biggest religious gathering, will climax this year on Thursday, November 26, when nearly three million people descend the Mount `Arafat.
The joint organization of the hajj by Romania's two biggest Muslim organizations is seen as an important step towards uniting Muslim organizations in the eastern European country.
"The importance of this step is that it is the first cooperation between Ifta' House and Taiba organization," explains Alghithi.
"It's the first step towards unifying the efforts exerted by these two major Muslim organizations."
The Ifta' House is the official organization representing the Muslim minority while Taiba is the country's biggest da'wa organization.
Alghithi believes this would better serve the interests of Muslims in Romania.
"We are in a dire need of unifying our efforts and working on our main objectives as a minority trying to cement its place in society."
Official estimates put the number of Muslims in Romania at nearly 48,000, notes Alghithi.
But the Ifta' House says there are some 70,000 Muslims in Romanian, making up two percent of its 22 million population.
Most Romanian Muslims belong to the Tatar, Turkish or Albanian ethnic communities.