VIENNA, December 26, 2005 ( – Canadian Muslims prefer to transit at European airports en route to the holy city of Makkah to perform hajj to spare themselves humiliating treatment and extra frisking at American airports.

"The excessive security measures targeting Arabs and Muslims at American airports since the 9/11 attacks have alienated many Canadian Muslims," Monzel Bakash, the supervisor of hajj journeys organized by the Islamic Center in Toronto, told on Monday, December 26.

"Canadian Muslims are ready to take the agony of undue delays and extra journey hours instead," he added.

Bakash said most Canadian pilgrims used to go to Saudi Arabia via New York, but not any more.

"Giant US airliners which offer direct flights to Riyadh fail to lure them," he added.

The first batch of Canadian pilgrims arrived in the Austrian capital Vienna on Sunday, December 25, on their way to Saudi Arabia.

Hajj consists of several ceremonies, meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

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.

Proper Hajj

Bakash said organizers offer this season a full-board hajj with estimated costs ranging between 3,000 and 9,000 Canadian dollars (US$2,571-7,761).

"Average costs stand at 5,000 Canadian dollars (US$4,286)," he said, adding that the Islamic Center in Toronto offers payment facilities for pilgrims at their request.

Bakash maintains that the figure is affordable for the majority of Canadian Muslims, citing an increase in the number of the center's pilgrims from 138 last year to 150 this year.

Ayman Sahebb, an Islamic jurisprudence researcher, told IOL that several Muslim organizations across Canada have launched a four-session program to enhance the pilgrims’ awareness on how to perform proper hajj.

"The pilgrims become acquainted with the hajj rites starting from their hometown to Makkah," he said.

The number of Canadian Muslims has increased dramatically over the last decade, according to a national census.

With approximately 600,000 Muslims in the country, Islam became the number one non-Christian faith in Canada.

There are some 200 mosques and prayer rooms in the capital Toronto.