Durban — The Durban Muslim community felt they were being targeted about the processes to follow when slaughtering for ritual and religious purposes for EID-al-Adha celebrations on Sunday.
The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) said their offices had been inundated with calls and concerns from the community regarding a notice issued by the eThekwini Municipality and possible selective enforcement of legislation of the Red Meat Regulations 2004, Section 128(2)(a).
Dr Faisal Suliman, Samnet chairperson, said: “Our community abides by 1 440-year-old Islamic regulations regarding the humane treatment of animals and slaughtering in an orderly, hygienic and humane manner and in a way that does not endanger public health.”
The eThekwini Municipality’s explanation on municipal platforms about processes to follow when slaughtering for ritual and religious purposes was prompted by numerous enquiries that have been received by the eThekwini Health Unit as a result of the upcoming Eid-al-Adha celebrations.
“The Health Unit would like to reiterate that it does not charge for any activities relating to the issuing of this permit.”
The municipality said it recognises and respects communities’ traditional, cultural and religious beliefs and does not prohibit activities aligned with such beliefs.
However, the municipality was required to give effect to national legislation and regulations to ensure the humane slaughter of animals, to safeguard public health and the health of those who consume the meat, to prevent health-related issues and to ensure that such practices are done in the interests of harmony and respect for other people’s rights.
“The Red Meat Regulations, 2004, Section 128(2)(a), which refers to religious purposes of the Muslim faith, and 129(1)(a), which refers to indigenous religious or cultural purpose, states that a person must ‘obtain written permission from the local authority of the area where such a slaughtering will take place’,” read the statement.
The Public Health by-law regulates issues relating to the keeping of animals, place of slaughter, permit for the keeping of animals, management of animal waste, fly breeding, and any other public health issues that may occur. Neither the Red Meat Regulations nor the relevant by-laws are new.
Officials of the municipality are aware that certain circumstances may lead to applicants not being able to meet the seven-day application period (eg, funerals). In such situations, officials will deal with those applications on their merit.
Suliman said Samnet had been working with the SPCA for years to ensure humane practices in the interest of the animals and community health are used. He said the Muslim community was not consulted regarding how to work together to ensure the by-laws are reasonable, practical and do not infringe on their constitutionally guaranteed religious rights.
“Gathering from the feedback we get and social media chats, the community is quite disappointed and, in many cases, angered. There is concern that on the day of Eid, municipality bureaucrats who neither understand our religious practices nor the correct application of these by-laws may want to rigidly enforce selective by-laws, and this will lead to both the spoiling of what is a religious festival and a joyous day for Muslims as well as tensions with the police and the municipality,” Suliman explained.
There is the potential for serious problems occurring on Eid day, and Suliman advised that the Muslim community be left to self-regulate Eid practices this year, and then stakeholder meetings be arranged to work forward for the following years.