Reactions of an outraged Muslim community

2012-01-20 08:27

Many have said that "outrage" is an understatement to describe the reaction of the South African Muslim community after the airing of 3rd Degree's "Hard to Swallow" episode that featured, among others, Orion Cold Storage and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), with the latter having let the community down in an enormous way.

In a capsule, last year video footage revealed that staff at Orion relabelled imported meat such as pork and kangaroo meat as beef and halaal. Furthermore questions were raised about the procedures that were followed when the MJC certified 18 consignments of imported chicken from Denmark and Brazil. The MJC then would not grant 3rd Degree an interview to have those questions answered, which resulted in the show’s host, Deborah Patta, “ambushing” members of the body.

I, for one, would try to refrain from door-stop journalism as I prefer to stick to ethical reporting, but on television it makes the profession seem super sexy and subsequently increases ratings.

The actions of Orion have not been – and will never be - forgotten, but they seem to nearly pale in comparison to the MJC not representing the Muslim community to their satisfaction. This has resulted in fighting, threatening and obvious division and ugliness amongst a community that preaches tolerance, respect and unity, as emotions and tension replaced their logical thinking.

There was a social media frenzy on Facebook and Twitter, mainly slamming the MJC for not speaking on a national level about their certification procedures and where the money generated thereof is spent.

Muslims from across the country were angry with the obvious lack of PR skills displayed by the MJC on national television and their Facebook and Twitter updates reflected it ever so clearly with the bashing of the sheikhs and moulanas that form part of the body. This resulted in back and forth arguments with the pro-MJC camp to the point where threats were apparently levelled at each other.

There were also unconfirmed reports of stockists removing the MJC halaal stickers as part of a boycott campaign.

Two Athlone butcheries were featured in the show without permission, according to the owners. Malicious rumours were then doing the rounds on instant messaging applications about these butcheries, claiming they were selling non-halaal meat. Their businesses were drastically affected by this.

In the wake of this scandal, there are other community groups preparing to launch an oversight body to act as a watchdog over the halaal regulatory bodies. Many are in favour of this and plenty are not, claiming the individuals involved are only in it for their own benefit. This is creating even further division.

The MJC should not be surprised by the outbursts of the Muslim community, as we place our trust in them to keep away from us that which is forbidden. We turn to them for spiritual guidance and we expect them to be the perfect role models and leaders since they chose the straight and narrow path to live piously. Having chosen to serve on the MJC meant they committed to representing the broader Muslim community. Therefore, the very least we expect from a religious body such as the MJC is to represent us fairly and accurately, not let us down in public and downright embarrass us. People have lost their respect and their trust for the organisation, now doubting their capabilities, even though they have done - and continue to do - sterling work in other areas.

We, as Muslims, need to take stock of our actions and think before we engage in slander and threats and believe propaganda and gossip. But the damage is done. All that’s left is for the MJC to get their act together and be on their very best behaviour because everything they do now will be scrutinised with a microscope by the rest of South Africa. They need to become PR-savvy with immediate effect and find a way to restore the trust they have lost in the Muslim community and earn back the respect they deserve.

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