All hell broke loose last Tues., 17th Jan. 2012, when the hard-hitting documentary, 3rd Degree, was finally aired on E-TV. Hidden cameras planted by a disgruntled employee revealed imported pork being professionally relabeled as “Halaal Veal,” kangaroo meat relabeled as something else and reject meat unfit for even animal consumption was re-classified as A-Grade. The Culprit: Orion Meats. Wrong, the bigger culprit: The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) who was supposed to be on watch at the time.
All the Muslims of South Africa were understandably shocked. Even some of the people who normally don’t watch TV watched the documentary from under the blanket!! What if my Ramadaan samoosa mince came from Orion? How do I know if the chicken fillets used by Wrap-It-Up Café also comes from the Cape? Where do the Pakistanis who braai meat on every corner of Laudium and Johannesburg nowadays get their meat from? So, they had to channel their frustration to somebody, and MJC took the hardest blow. The purpose of this article is not to pronounce a verdict on the issue, but to reflect on some lessons we ought to learn from it:
Position of Halaal Bodies:
About 50 or 60 years ago, our grandfathers would wake up earlier than normal on a Sunday, sharpen their knife, and go to the nearest farm to slaughter a dozen chickens or maybe a sheep. They would personally say “Bismillah Allahu Akbar,” I doubt very much with tajweed, on each chicken, and come home just before 12:00 PM. That batch of meat would last for about a month, until poor grandpa would have to go again and slaughter. There was no SANHA, MJC or NIHT then.
Now in 2012, we have Nandos, Mochachos, Chicken Licken and 100s of other eateries. Our sisters no more only make the old-fashioned chicken tarkari at home, they make tandoori chicken, roast chicken, manchurian chicken, chicken roulade and even my favorite – butter chicken. Nowadays, no one wants to slaughter themselves, either because it’s too messy, or because Sunday mornings is reserved for the golf course, the gym or the mall. A family of five would live on 12 chickens a month back then, now the same family needs 50 chickens a month. Try saying “Bismillah Allahu Akbar” 50 times with speed. After the eighth time, it will sound something like “Bismahahi Huhuha” So why bother? Let Rainbow Chickens play a tape recording instead and slaughter 12 chickens every five seconds!
So our laziness and over-indulgence for poultry and meat has led to the establishment of halaal bodies. Who better to do such a messy job then our Shaikhs and Maulanas? After all, the community keeps them on call 24 hours a day, treats them like slaves, and even gives them a salary that equals roughly four fat meals a month at Adegas or Jimmy’s Killer Prawns. The muezzin’s entire salary is perhaps our bread and milk budget for the month! So, some ‘Ulama do a good job at slaughtering, whilst others are just used as a front for others.
Many of our most pious and erudite scholars have never seen a R200- note in a long while, and here someone is willing to pay them 5c per halaal chicken at 200 000 chickens a day. I leave you to do the maths as to how much a month? The ‘Ulama are entitled to their due, but as our own consumption increase and we increasingly boycott our kitchens over the weekend, the industry has grown to such a level that not only is the local industry insufficient to meet our needs, poultry and meat needs to be imported. The Halaal industry is a multi-million industry, and wherever there is so much money, there must be a scandal, whether genuine or not, whether the ‘Ulama are involved or not.
So, if you want to ensure that whatever you eat is 100% halaal, then slaughter yourself or entrust your slaughtering to a close Aalim or friend in whom you have complete trust, not in unknown faces within huge organizations. Eat only from places where you have complete trust in the owners. If not, go back 50 or 60 years and once a month on a Sunday morning, sacrifice the mall and go to the farm. But please, practice the “Bismillahi Akbar” 50 times before you do!
All the Ulama are Fraudsters!
The MJC is an eminent organization of scholars who is responsible for the upkeep of Islam in the Cape and upon whom many depend for the monthly moon-sightings by the Maankykers on Signal Hill. Although their reputation may have been tarnished in the documentary for which they are trying very hard to reverse, the truth is that many people have taken the opportunity to once again indulge in a practice known as ‘Ulama-bashing.
The ‘Ulama-class are our tender children and a product of our society. They didn’t land on earth from Jupiter and they haven’t come to invade our planet. Just like you have crooked doctors giving their patients wrong medication, or lawyers prolonging their cases to milk their clients, or accountants legalizing our ooplang (hot-money), you have some crooked ‘Ulama, but this not an indication of the entire fraternity. If you are not satisfied with one doctor, you will simply go to another. You wouldn’t start condemning all the doctors or question the philosophy of medicine. If one lawyer cons you, you wouldn’t loose faith in the law. You would simply get better legal counsel. Likewise, if one or two scholars made human mistakes, it gives us no right to condemn the entire fraternity; or even worse, try to create a new type of Islam based on a new understanding or form organizations in opposition to them.
Lat week, many people suddenly added a new word to their vocabulary: priesthood. “There is no priesthood in Islam, get rid of all those Shaikhs. We rest our case. See what they did!” they shouted. Firstly, priesthood is an office where the priests have the power to legislate or modify religion. The ‘Ulama do not modify the religion, they preserve it in its original form. Secondly, priests have the power to forgive sins, our ‘Ulama do not have such magical powers. So please, get rid of this fancy slogan. The ‘Ulama are merely scholars of Islam.
If you do not like the ‘Ulama, close all the Darul ‘Ulooms, Masjids, Madrasahs, Welfare Organisations and Muslim Schools. Shut all the counseling services and burn all Islamic literature. Shut down the hifz classes too and ask Mr Zuma to ban the topi and beard in South Africa. Regard all Camrys as unroadworthy and pollute all the dhall and potatoes in SA as those are the staple diet of the Maulanas! If you can’t do so, learn to live with them and give them due respect.
True, the ‘Ulama haven’t been able to unite on certain key issues like Muslim Personal Law and the Boycott Issue in South Africa. Both sides have strong justification for their stance, but this should not lower our estimation for them, just as a wife who has a quarrel with her husband doesn’t love him any less than before the argument. Differences of opinion are natural and unavoidable. We should rather learn to accept the state of affairs and follow those ‘Ulama whom we trust.
Nowadays, our biggest weakness is to judge others. Only the Almighty is Al-Haakim, not us. Thanks to Facebook, BBM and WhatsApp, we can broadcast our opinions with no thought at all to millions within seconds. If someone makes a mistake, let him rectify it. Don’t let us play the part of Almighty and pronounce judgment! “You see what that man did. If I had it my way, I’ll demote him!” If you do so, there is Someone else who has a judgment for you, a more serious one on a more frightening day.
One of the aims of the West is to distance the ‘Ulama from the masses. Once the masses loose faith in their religion and their scholars, they will turn to others for guidance. Instead of having Mufti Zakariyyah from Masjid Suhail as our local Mufti, we will have Mr Maroon from Mango Products as our Mufti. That really tickles the imagination! According to a hadith, those “others” in today’s times will either be the ignorant leaders or the modern west who will blaze a path of deviation for us. As negative as our perception may be of our scholars at times, the duty of the masses is to set the situation right, rather than creating a further rift in the ummah. This is exactly what the west wants and we have played straight in to their hands in the meat issue.
The solution is for everyone to realise that only angels are perfect, and that human beings make mistakes. An incident like this should mobilize the entire community to find solutions to the halaal issue, rather than start accusing others and causing further rifts. Let us be advocates of the Almighty, rather than messengers of the devil.
That Jew Created a Division in the Ummah !!
In her interview with a local Muslim radio station, Debora Patta said the MJC is not answerable to 3rd Degree, but to the Muslim Ummah. Debora herself is a no-nonsense journalist famous for her intimidating questions and direct approach. She didn’t cause a split amongst South African Muslims through her documentary as many think; she just woke up the Muslims as to what has been happening in the Halaal industry.
Whilst a lot of us may be calling for the disbanding of MJC for their alleged blunder, all the Muslims of SA must make a huge a collection and offer Deborah a comfortable retirement if we know what is good for us. We may have been quick to judge the Shaikhs on this one, but what about the Hajj industry famous for its corruption and fraud? Last year, Hajj visas from Botswana were sold at R5000- each. What about the Islamic Bank that collapsed which destroyed the pension of 100s of Muslims? What about those trustees who censor what the ‘Ulama speak on the pulpit which contributes to poor quality speeches and which blunts their creativity, or those who use Islam to promote their own agenda at Muslim Schools or Welfare Organizations due to their wealth, contributing to a lack of faith of the masses in these institutes?
Oh yes, Let us not forget the mafia in the meat industry who prevent the establishment of small-scale meat establishments that ensures halaal. What about the competition we have in building Masjids controlled by different organizations and the splits we have caused in the community for personal reasons. Can we also blame the ‘Ulama for that?
Do we want 3rd Degree to investigate all of the above, or are we going to set them right ourselves? If we do not, 3rd Degree will have many juicy stories for the next 100 years!
When we point a finger, three fingers are pointing back at us. Are our affairs all in order that we can sit in judgment of others? Sadly, our mindset is that of accuse and fragment, rather than identify a problem and work for a solution together. Instead of solving the halaal issue, we will throw suspicion on all of the other works of the MJC like the recent Africa1 Aid Gaza Convoy and throw the entire organization into disrepute. This is wrong.
It is our collective responsibility to work together – all stakeholders – to find solutions. Let the problems of the ummah bring us together, rather than further split us apart. Let us ensure that we do not see a repeat of the Orion meat saga, because if we do, then the Muslims of South Africa will be branded no. 1 suckers of the world!