No cow slaughtering in Pakistan’s border district, not under compulsion but respect

In this file photo, People carry animals they bought at a cattle market for the upcoming Muslim festival Eid al-Adha in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 23 August 2018

No cow slaughtering in Pakistan’s border district, not under compulsion but respect

  • More than 40 percent of Tharparkar districts’ 1.6 million population comprises of Hindus, according to the 2017 census
  • Muslim majority has always taken care of our sentiments so other countries, especially neighboring India, should take a lesson from it, says Hindu trader, Kaldeep Kumar

KARACHI: Tharo Khan, a resident of Islamkot town of Tharparkar, bought a goat for sacrifice on Eidul Adha. This cost him Rs. 18,000 ($146). He could get a share in a cow which would cost him less than Rs. 6,000 ($49) but he opted for goat. The reason is not “affordability” but “respect for the fellow citizens practicing another faith.”

“Sacrifice (slaughtering animal) is a religious obligation which I have to fulfil. However, at the same time I have a social obligation to take care of the sentiments of my Hindu friends, who make up 90 percent of our town,” Khan told Arab News.

While the slaughtering of cows and subsequent lynching of Muslims who are the minority faith in India often makes headlines, in the Pakistani border district of Tharparkar the majority of Muslims opt to not slaughter cows to avoid hurting the feelings of their Hindu fellows.

Tharparkar, situated at the India-Pakistan border, has the lowest Human Development Index of all the districts in Sindh. It has a 1,649,661 population (1.6 million), as per census of 2017. Of these 1.6 million, well over 40 percent are Hindus. 

However, in urban areas, including its headquarter Mithi and Tehsil towns of Diplo, Islamkot, Chachro, Dahli, Nagarparkar and Kaloi, Hindus forms majority of the population. In Islamkot Hindus are more than 90 percent.

“We are faced with drought and have the lowest human development index but we are rich in terms of love, respect and brotherhood,” Kaldeep Kumar, 40, and president of the Islamkot traders’ association, told Arab News.

Kumar on Wednesday visited his Muslim friends to greet them at Eid; he ate sweets and grilled mutton, since his Muslim friends like other Tharis don’t slaughter the cow.

“Hindus of Thar arrange Iftar dinners for the Muslim friends in the fasting month of Ramadan. They (Muslims) attend our religious rituals and festivals,” said Kumar.

“Although not prohibited by law, there is an unannounced ban on the slaughter of cow, which is sacred to Hindus. This ban is however not forced but self-imposed and reflects the centuries-old interfaith harmony,” said Abdul Ghani Bajeer, a local journalist.

“This is not confined to Eid. You can’t find a single of a dozen of meat shops across the district which may be offering cow’s meat to its customers,” Bajeer told Arab News. “In the Muslim weddings, serving food of cow meat is being avoided as many Hindus also attend the wedding ceremonies.”

At Eid, the locals chose to slaughter goats but in some cases if they slaughter a cow, it’s done away from the eyes of Hindu fellow citizens out of respect for their religious feelings. 

Bajeer said that over the past few years, different welfare organizations including Al-Khidmat Foundation, Human Relief Foundation, Darul Uloom Karachi, Al-Mustafa Trust, have started arranging sacrifices for the underprivileged local Muslim communities. “But local volunteers make sure that slaughtering process is being done in closed spaces and the meat doesn’t reach the Hindus,” he said.

Piaro Shawani, the 40-year-old Hindu owner of Café Thar in Mithi, said that Tharparkar is backward in resources but is wealthiest due to its interfaith harmony, brotherhood, respect and love. “In the rainy season, we celebrate the rain related festival together. We also attend each other’s religious festivals,” he said.

Abdul Rehman Otho, the 45-year-old principal of a private school in Diplo town of Thar, said that there is no prohibition on slaughtering cow. “No Hindu can stop us from slaughtering (the cow) but we have inherited this legacy of not hurting the feelings of our fellow Hindus from our forefathers,” Otho told Arab News. “Hindu-Muslim women are even more attached to each other.”

Advocate Faqir Sagir, general secretary of the Mithi Bar Association, said: “This interfaith harmony leads to a tolerant society where the crime rate is low. We have a zero crime ratio.” 

Ghansham Das, the 60-year-old former chairman of Islamkot City union council, said: “If we are not asked by someone about it we even don’t remember about cow slaughtering.”

In our area, people of two different faiths live together but this is a blessing for us not a curse, unlike what we see in many places around the world. “We are not only an example for the rest of our country but for the entire world. We participate in their festivals and they (Muslims) in ours.”

Amar Guriro, who has reported about Thar Desert extensively, said that Thar Desert is a hub of religious coexistence and interfaith harmony. “People of Sindh are emotionally attached to their motherland, language and culture, more than their religion. For Sindhi people, one’s religion or faith is not important but someone who loves their motherland, speaks their language, and practices Sindhi culture is important,” Guriro said.

“The Muslim majority has always taken care of our sentiments so other countries, especially our neighboring India, should take a lesson from it as well,” Kaldeep Kumar said.

Hajj now ‘more affordable’ for Muslim Filipinos

Updated 18 min 34 sec ago

Hajj now ‘more affordable’ for Muslim Filipinos

  • Steps taken by the Philippine government have resulted in an “unprecedented” reduction in Hajj fees and better accommodation for Filipino pilgrims
  • The reduced fees come with the entry of a third airline that will transport Filipino Hajj pilgrims, after the Kingdom agreed to waive its two-airline policy for the Philippines

MANILA: The annual Hajj pilgrimage is now “more affordable” for Muslim Filipinos thanks to reforms instituted by the Philippines’ National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and successful talks with Saudi Arabia, said NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan.
Steps taken by the Philippine government have resulted in an “unprecedented” reduction in Hajj fees and better accommodation for Filipino pilgrims, he added.
In an advisory released earlier this month, the NCMF announced that starting this year, “there will be changes for the benefit of all intending pilgrims in the annual Hajj or pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.”
Among these changes is the assurance that Filipino pilgrims will only be accommodated in four- and five-star hotels in Madinah and Makkah, with adequate shuttle services to and from the places of Hajj rituals.
“Everyone is assured that the past experience of substandard hotel accommodations for Filipinos will never be experienced again,” said Pangarungan, who will serve as official head of the Philippine pilgrims’ delegation this year.
The reduced fees come with the entry of a third airline that will transport Filipino Hajj pilgrims, after the Kingdom agreed to waive its two-airline policy for the Philippines.
“Historically, only … Saudia Airlines and Philippine Airlines (PAL) were allowed as transportation of Filipino pilgrims,” said Pangarungan.
In January, he and other NCMF officials traveled to Saudi Arabia and met with Deputy Minister for Hajj and Umrah Dr. Sharief Housnie.
During the meeting, Pangarungan explained the financial limitations of Muslim Filipinos, and negotiated for the landing rights of another airline that will shuttle pilgrims from the Philippines. The Saudi government heeded the request.
Pangarungan said the airfare rates of the third airline, Oman Air, is significantly lower than both Saudia and PAL.
So if a pilgrim chooses to fly with Oman Air, the total Hajj fee will be 166,786 Philippine pesos ($3,204), compared with 197,000 pesos last year. Should a pilgrim choose Saudia, the total fee will be 185,336 pesos.
Also at the meeting, the NCMF got assurances that Filipino pilgrims would only be accommodated in four- or five-star hotels. This year, Saudi Arabia has allocated a quota of 8,000 Hajj visas for Filipino pilgrims.
Ebra Moxsir, president of the Imam Council of the Philippines (ICP), welcomed the changes, saying they will allow more Filipino Muslims to perform Hajj.
“We can’t expect everyone to be satisfied with these changes, but it’s still good news,” Moxsir told Arab News. “If you’re a Muslim who has the financial capability, it’s mandatory to perform Hajj even once in your life.”
Journalist Ali Macabalang, who has gone to Makkah twice to cover Hajj, said in the past, due to schemes by “some unscrupulous officials and individuals,” Filipino pilgrims had to pay more.
“While collected funds were enough to put them in good hotels, our pilgrims would end up in crowded dormitories … One room that could accommodate four people would have eight to 12 occupants,” Macabalang said.
“Each of the pilgrims paid for separate rooms … but they end up in cramped dormitories … So it’s really a welcome development what the present leadership is introducing this year.”
Huma Ahmad, who was among Filipino pilgrims last year, said the reduced fees are “good news for those who’ll join the Hajj this year. Hopefully it’ll be a success for all pilgrims.”
Of the estimated 10 million Muslims in the Philippines, on average 7,000 join the pilgrimage each year. Macabalang said the new changes will enable more fellow Muslim Filipinos to perform Hajj.
Some Filipino pilgrims even sell their property to raise funds to perform the pilgrimage, he added.
“It’s unfortunate that some unscrupulous individuals were using it (Hajj) to take advantage of the pilgrims,” he said.
Philippine pilgrims were almost barred from this year’s pilgrimage due to an NCMF debt of 11 million pesos owed to a Saudi tourism company that handled Hajj-related activities for Filipino pilgrims in 2017 and 2018.
Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos Jr., director of the NCMF bureau of external relations, said: “This debt, if it remained unpaid, would’ve been enough grounds to block all Philippine pilgrims from joining the Hajj.”
Pangarungan, who became NCMF secretary in July last year, immediately called for an investigation upon learning of the issue, said Ramos Jr.
He added that Pangarungan ordered that the amount be settled so it would not affect those joining the pilgrimage in August.
“If the final report will prove that there’s sufficient evidence of corruption, a case will be filed at the ombudsman,” Ramos Jr. said, adding that initial reports from the investigation indicate that funds were mismanaged by some NCMF officials.
Relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia stretch back almost five decades, with total trade of around $1.25 billion in 2017. The Kingdom hosts almost a million Filipino workers.