Home > English (General) > Of ritual slaughtering of cows, Malay politicians and false religious pride

Of ritual slaughtering of cows, Malay politicians and false religious pride

by  Moaz Nair

Could we ever imagine that when Malaysia has achieved developed status we could still see animals being slaughtered in public in the name of religious rite? How then would the tourists coming to this country react to this?

Some Muslim countries such as the UAE have already worked on plans not to allow animals being slaughtered in public or at any undesignated place, including outside the mosque, other than the many authorized abattoirs they have built.  In India, where there is a big Muslim population, Muslims would not slaughter sacrificial animals in public where there are children, women or people of other faiths. It is also done in proper and discreet manners. In developed countries and Eastern Europe ritual slaughter of animals are confined to designated areas and it has to be done in government-approved abattoirs.

When would Malaysia take a cue from these Muslim countries and other Muslims living in developed countries who also perform the korban just like the Muslims in this country?

Muslims in many other Islamic nations are already working on plans to find appropriate and more hygienic ways to conduct the sacrificial rite. In developed countries where Muslims are the minority the korban is not banned but Muslims have to do it in proper abattoirs and Muslims there, in general, do not object to this ruling. Hygiene is always cited as one of the reasons for this by the authority. When is the government of the day in this country going to edify the public on this matter?

Muslims are open to this view

Muslims should be open to the call by the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) that it does not condone the slaughter of cattle or goats in school compounds or public places for the simple reason that it is not appropriate nor hygienic for such rituals to be carried out in those places.

MCCBCHST is not against any ritual rites of the Muslims but only meant to say that it would not be proper for the ritual to be done in the open where children and those “not ready” could see. The sight of blood and gore would give them a psychological jolt and an effect on their psyche. Many Muslims themselves are open to this view:

“The request is not an extreme act and MCCBCHST is not an extreme right-wing group,” said a Muslim lecturer from a local university.

“Their intention is not to criticize an Islamic rite,” said a Muslim engineer working in a private company.

“The tone and intent of the request should not be misunderstood,” said another Muslim student from IIUM.

“Performing the slaughter in a school compound or public place would be viewed by the public at large as gross insensitivity to those animal lovers,” said a young Muslim lawyer in town.

“To the man in the street they would have the impression that we are glorifying animal cruelty. It is sending a wrong message to the people. We need to perform this ritual in a secluded place away from the general public,”  said a young Malay government servant.

Unfortunately, some Muslim groups are quick to politicize this issue especially when such comments are given by non-Muslims. Be that as it may, there could be some merit to the sincere comments made by the critics on the open slaughtering of animals, Some Muslim groups may not be happy with some of these sincere comments but fortunately this is not shared by most Muslims on the street as they see such actions as more political than religious in nature. Most Muslims, apparently, would disagree with this political stance to the issue.

Sensibly looking at the issue, children and some others in the public – the young and women – could be easily petrified by the scene of the sacrificial rite. Schools or public space are thus not the appropriate venue to slaughter sacrificial animals and skinning of the carcasses. This ritual manifestation indeed should be hidden from the eyes of those who are not prepared to see.

The trauma of witnessing the killing of animals is well recorded in psychological science. Children, women and those who are temperamental to blood and the sight of blade used to slaughter, after witnessing a slaughter would refuse to witness another korban or eat the meat offered to them.

It is natural for some people to be disturbed when witnessing any animal being slaughtered in their midst. When it involves seeing huge animal such as a cow, which is generally meek, struggling and whizzing with blood oozing from the body the emotional distress inflicted on an onlooker could be just awful. This is just a normal human reaction and it is simply undesirable in most societies to expose this scene to the young. Psychological-traumatic evidence is that to see the slow killing of a living creature is an unpleasant and hideous sight, even for many adults. What more if children and women were to see it.

Muslims in the country should be responsive and open to criticism. The conception that non-Muslims have no right to comment even when Islam interrupts on their social, cultural or religious sensitivities is against Islam. Even the Prophet (May Peace Be Upon Him) in his lifetime adhered to constructive criticism against him. A former prime minister of the country did many times before mentioned that: “When Islam is perfect the Muslims are not”. It also goes without saying that people professing any religion, for that matter,  are not perfect human beings. They may claim that their religion is perfect but they cannot claim themselves to be perfect. They falter and err in life like any other human being. They should therefore learn to be receptive to constructive criticisms from the people.

Hygiene is important

The sacrifice of animals for the sacrificial rite for Muslims has long been done in the open in this country as well as in many other undeveloped countries. This culture started long before abattoirs were built and medical sciences came up with evidence that hygiene is important when it comes to the slaughtering of animals for food.

Animals are prone to so many diseases known as zoonosis that could be carried to human beings. Not many people living in poor countries are aware of this. Of the 1415 pathogens known to affect humans, 61 percent are zoonosis in source. In other words, they are derived from animals. Not many carriers of diseases today are aware that they have acquired the many forms of ailment from meat they eat.

Goats and cattle could become infected with various viral and bacterial diseases such as mastitis, foot-and-mouth disease, caprine arthritis, pseudo rabies, encephalitis, caseous lymphadenitis and pinkeye.  Animals could transmit a number of zoonotic diseases to people, such as Q-fever, tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies.

These medically proven zoonosis were not known to people in the remote past. Presumably, human beings who were affected by these pathogens in the past and present are not even aware that they came from animals.  The government of the day should edify the people on the hygiene and the medical phase of open slaughtering instead of using national television stations to graphically highlight the gory scenario of the sacrificial rite.

Voice of moderation among Muslims

In Europe, many governments (that initially disapproved of animal sacrifice) sought sincere advice from the Al-Azhar University for a fatwa regarding the traditional method of slaughter by their Muslim population. The university had the wisdom to issue the fatwa that it was permissible to do so in an abattoir in the interests of hygiene and to acknowledge the sensitivities of animal rights groups. There are points at which religious beliefs and traditions may overlap, and it is at these points that the government should be heedful of sensitivities. It is doubtful that the Malaysian government has sought the advice from the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar on this issue.

Hindus do not worship but venerate the cow because it has been traditionally a source of sustenance. Hindus by religious belief, culture and tradition, do not kill or eat the meat of cows. The cow has been venerated by the Hindus since time immemorial. The fact is, the cow used to be, and still is, the provider for many families in India and the nearby regions. It is used to provide milk to the babies of malnourished mothers long before the dawn of commercially produced milk and in some homes everything from ghee, cheese to yoghurt is derived from cow’s milk. The bull was and is still used in the fields to plough and till the land long before tractors were used.

To the Hindus and most people of other religions in India, killing this animal is like killing a member of the family. It is a case of cultural overlap in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This veneration is indeed more cultural than religion to the people in the Indian Continent. The Muslims in India are aware of this aspect of life among their people and they respect them by not allowing the sacrificial rite to be done in the open where it could be sensitive to those who venerate the animal.

Murat Galiev, head of Tatar religious Muslim organization Vakf said this:

“We are departing from the practice of conducting sacrificial rituals near mosques and are planning to open designated facilities for slaughtering of sacrificial animals in other districts of Kazan.”

He believes that such facilities would allow for meeting sanitary requirements and conducting a much hygienic and appropriate sacrificial rituals.

Abu Dhabi authorities have reminded the public against slaughtering sheep and other cattle in open areas and said its abattoirs are the only authorised places for slaughtering. According to the authorities, random slaughtering of livestock in the streets would cause serious threats to public health, distort the image of the capital and cause infectious diseases. Abu Dhabi is planning to introduce tougher punishment against people who slaughter cattle and other animals in the public as this would cause diseases.

Statement from the authorized body in Abu Dhabi:

“Slaughtering livestock and other animals in public outside the authorized abattoirs in the emirate will spread serious diseases to humans. We are planning to increase the fines against such practices and turning them into criminal cases that will be referred to court in order to put an end to these activities and protect public health and the environment.”

“We call on the public not to slaughter animals at homes and in residential areas or in any place outside the municipality’s abattoirs to ensure public health, keep the city clean and prevent the spread of diseases.”

Come up with awareness campaign

Residents of UAE have been warned not to slaughter sheep in public or at their homes to keep streets clean and prevent the spread of diseases. The Abu Dhabi Municipality has decreed that sheep, cattle and camels must be slaughtered at abattoirs. The municipality provides free vet services to all cattle owners seeking to slaughter their animals for their religious rite. This is to protect their society and environment from possible spread of diseases.

Civic bodies across the UAE have advised people against hiring private and illegal butchers to slaughter animals, as they may subject themselves to diseases as well as a fine. The officials would make arrangement for animals to be slaughtered at municipality abattoirs. Butchering without supervision, according to them, could have adverse effects on health and the environment. The civic bodies would also monitor livestock markets to ensure a supply of disease-free animals for slaughter. The Municipality has enforced a strict control regime to prevent public slaughtering that might result in diseases being transmitted to humans and environmental pollution. They come up with awareness campaign asking residents not to slaughter animals outside slaughterhouses.

The point here is, there is an earnest drive in this Muslim country to educate the public on the risk of slaughtering infected or ill animals. They are aware that the large-scale dumping of the residue of slaughtered animals could pose a serious threat to the environment and public health. Certified butchers at abattoirs are trained in dealing with meat and keeping it clean. The civic administration has also developed a plan to overcome congestion at slaughterhouses. Apart from slaughtering, care is taken while storing meat and the disposing of the residue.

Moscow in 2006 banned public sacrifice of animals, as mass slaughter of animals directly in front of Muslim mosques annoyed the non-Muslim public – fearing that the sight of death would adversely affect the psyche of their children. This attitude towards slaughter was especially strong in traditionally non-Islamic regions. Today, however, special facilities for the slaughtering of sacrificial animals are constructed to fulfil Islamic religious rites in Moscow and some other Muslim minority states in Eastern Europe. In Malaysia, since modern and advanced facilities like abattoirs are readily available, it would thus be more logical and appropriate to slaughter the animals “behind closed doors’”

False religious pride

Muslims should not be made to think that the call by MCCBCHST – that “it is not a wise idea that animals be slaughtered in public places” – is against the korban rite of the Muslims. It is thus disingenuous for some Muslim groups to point finger at the council calling them as anti-Islam. Instead, Malaysia should take the cue from some Muslim counties to edify the general public that slaughtering of animals is best done “behind closed doors”.

But some zealous politicians and the pro-UMNO media are exploiting the issue to gain some brownie points in politics and to attract votes from the Muslims. Some groups with vested political interests are always on the lookout to capitalise on issues that would polarise the people and infuriate the Malays so that their chances of getting their votes in elections are increased. That much is their concern over this issue.

Yet, the core issue here is deliberately overlooked, instead they are more interested in blowing up simple matters to work up the Malays and to portray themselves as the champions of their religion and race. Islam, for that matter, does not exclusively belong to these groups though they may be Muslims.

There are many moderate Muslims out there – in this country and throughout the world – who do not share the views of any minority group that make use of sensitive issues to glorify their position in society. Most Malaysian Muslims, for that matter, are more matured than the members of this group who, sorry to say, have a false religious pride in them.

Source : MC

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