Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies who make frequent umrah visits and told them to get his permission before going on such trips, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. Umrah is not compulsory for Muslims, unlike the Hajj.
At an AKP Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting on Monday, deputy Mustafa Yel distributed dates and Zam-zam water he brought from an umrah visit to Mecca to party members.
Erdoğan reportedly told Yel, “May Allah accept it. But I didn’t know [you went on an umrah trip].”
In response, Yel said he received permission from the party group.
Erdoğan said whoever makes an umrah trip from the AKP from now on should first get his permission.
“Doing hajj is fard [obligatory], but making an umrah trip is not something one can do when they are bored. That place is not [Turkish holiday resort] Antalya, but you treat it like a tourism destination,” Erdoğan said.
Over the past years, making umrah visits has become very popular especially among AKP members and celebrity figures. Some associate this with the rising popularity and visibility of Islamic rituals under the rule of the AKP.