It was ugly. It was embarrassing. It was awful.
There are no other words to describe what transpired outside the offices of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) during their much anticipated media conference held on Tuesday. To allay the concerns and doubts of the Muslim community, the MJC thought it best to answer questions the media had about the Orion Cold Storage saga.
As I tapped my foot, waiting for the journalists to understand what they were repeatedly being told by the MJC executive, I heard some form of commotion and yelling taking place outside. Of course, I flew down the stairs and out of the building to investigate further.
Allow me to attempt to paint the vivid picture.
To my horror there was a scuffle that broke out (not the first one as there was an altercation even before the briefing started that involved three lone protesters) that left a car in the parking lot damaged.
Two women – out of the +- 15 protesters – with placards repeatedly shouted out: “Down with the MJC!” “You are the enemies of Allah!” “Shame on you!” “You let us eat pork!” This is only a taste of the commotion. People belonging to the community group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) demanded that the MJC use from their funds generated from the halaal certification process for drug rehabilitation centers.
One of the protesters was allegedly assaulted by the security of the MJC after asking for a glass of water. This left him hot under the collar, emotional and visibly upset. “Come, gangster, kom slaan my! Kom slaan my voor die mense! Julle is almal ‘n klomp gangsters! (Come hit me! Come hit me in front of all these people! You are all a bunch of gangsters!) You’re a bunch of liars! You lied to the Muslim public! You let us eat pig! You’re a bunch of hypocrites!” he shouted out at the MJC.
In a nutshell, people were angry. Emotions were sky high. The police had to intervene.
I stood with my mouth agape, feeling embarrassed for these people making spectacles of themselves. Normally I would suggest that such behaviour be swept under the carpet and be dealt with privately, as I wouldn’t want to put them to shame in any way in public. However, they knew the media was there and it seemed as though they clearly put up a show for the cameras, as they didn’t mind rigging shots for a television news crew.
Religious leaders take it upon themselves to lead a community or congregation. It’s an enormous responsibility and could become burdensome. They are not prophets, but ordinary human beings. They are prone to make mistakes just like you and me. I would like to believe that they are genuine people working honestly towards a better community for the sake of God. Whether they really are being honest and genuine is for God alone to judge – not us.
So it’s ironic, really, the behaviour of the protesters. While spewing forth the hatred towards the religious leaders and condemning their actions, they are the very ones behaving in an un-Islamic and hypocritical manner, behaviour that Islam does not condone in any way. Yes, people are fed-up with the way in which they see the MJC to be operating. But calling your fellow brother or sister in Islam an enemy of God is a reflection on you, not the person at the receiving end of that statement. We have no right to question anybody’s relationship with God, no matter what faith they belong to. We cannot foresee what is in the heart of the next human being.
People seem to not want to understand the Orion/MJC saga, which leads them to rile up the rest of the community. According to the MJC they certified Orion on a consignment basis as the chicken arrived at the docks. The halaal certificate is indicative of this. The premises itself was never certified halaal. The chicken was apparently kept sealed at all times right up until they were delivered to the wholesalers, thus there was no contact with the non-halaal products. The relabeling of the non-halaal meat had nothing to do with the MJC. It was not under their watch as they were not requested to certify anything else besides the chicken, and their halaal labels were not used. So are people suffering from a bout of Swine Flu when they insist that the MJC allowed us to eat pork?
The community is losing focus. In the war against the MJC by a handful of individuals who have always had their daggers out for the body for a very long time, people are failing to see the facts and choose to believe any rumour that reaches their ear.
I find the MJC to be generally un-cooperative – their lackadaisical manner of handling 3rd Degree’s requests for interviews does not make the television show special in any way. However, the blunder with 3rd Degree seemed to have been a wake up call because the MJC have since launched their social media campaign where they promised to answer any questions the public may have. The MJC is a non-profit organisation and they are meant to be transparent. They cannot turn you away should you request any documentation for your peace of mind.
The MJC have now made the channels available to the community and have promised to improve on their public engagement. To avoid a repeat of all the ugliness, and to put an end to the division, hate-speech and hypocrisy, make use of these channels wisely. Hold the MJC to account – it is your right to do so – but do it decently and respectfully. Should you feel the need to act out and embarrass yourself, do not do it in the name of Islam.
This article originally appeared here.