Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eid El-Adha: The pleasant massacre of sheep!

It is Eid el-Adha again! Kids wearing new clothes, adults conducting Eid prayers as soon as the sun rises, and relatives, neighbors and friends exchange Eid salutes and congratulations with much happiness and excitement. Yet, the most important feature is the sheep and other sacrificial animals – e.g. buffalo and cow – slaughtered, literally, in every single street of Egypt.

Walking randomly in Cairo’s streets on the morning of the first day of Eid el-Adha might give you the impression that a massacre has taken place. Blood is poured into streets and you should be very careful while walking in order not to get wet. You also should cover your nose well in order not to get offended by the smell of flesh and blood coming from every house. Butchers are moving from one house to another with blood on their big knifes and white galabiyas.

As an essential ritual of Eid el-Adha, some might see such a blood bath as a reason for joy and celebration. Although I am a devout Muslim, I still cannot see this horrible scene but a group of bloody people killing innocent animals in a very savage, immoral, and unsanitary way. Seeing a sheep slaughtered in a previous Eid el-Adha, when I was a kid, is the reason why I do not eat. I am sure I am not alone in this!

A random thought came across my mind on the night of Eid el-Adha about the Egyptian government and the slaughtering habit. I expected – or wished – the Ministry of Health would prevent the slaughtering sheep and other animals outside licensed butchers. Since July, after the appearance of the H1N1 virus, or Swine Flu, the Egyptian government has banned most of the usual activities of people in similar religious celebrations and public places. For example, the government banned holding Sufi celebrations of the birthdays of some Sufi figures. This was very offensive to Sufis who had to cancel their celebrations for the sake of keeping public health. The government also banned smoking sheesha, or water-pipes, in several coffee shops, including those in tourist places, like Khan El-Khalily and the Hussein area. It is expected that such a ban would result in negative effects of tourism in the city.

Likewise, the Ministry of Health should have banned the random slaughtering of animals at citizen’s houses or in streets; not only for pollution reasons, but also for moral reasons.

Actually, it is absolute insanity to attribute such a habit of slaughtering at one’s home to their divine record of good deeds! Some might claim that this is about following the steps of Prophet Muhammad, who used to watch the sacrifice of animals slaughtered at his house. A very clear fact that people usually tend to ignore while trying to follow Prophet’s habits is that he lived in a Bedouin society, in the desert. Slaughtering sheep was something that happened all the time then.

Nevertheless, we are in the 21st century now, with all the professional, clean, and sterilized butchers. Why do we need to butcher animals at our houses, then? There is no logic in slaughtering animals in such a primitive way, which might cause the spread of infections and increase the possibility of the meat spoiling, no need to mention the sight of pollution. If it is a ritual, we should find safe and healthy ways to practice it.

On the morning of the first day of Eid el-Adha, while watching the sheep from my house and other houses in my street herded, without resistance, to a spot at the end of the street to be slaughtered, they reminded me of the submissive majority of my country, who are not willing to show any resistance against the tyrants who drive them, slowly but surely, to their definite end. Like sheep, they are stronger, but still do not want to resist the man driving them with a stick from behind or the man waiting for them with a big knife at the other end.