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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 03:25 GMT
Muslim festival disrupted
Call to prayer at London's Regent's Park mosque
Prayers for Eid at London's Regent's Park mosque
By BBC News Online's Melissa Jackson

The foot-and-mouth outbreak could not have come at a worse time for the two million Muslims living in the UK.

Monday is the holy day of Eid - when celebrations centre around a family gathering accompanied by a traditional feast of lamb.

But with the ban on the slaughter and movement of animals, this year's spread could be a little sparse.

Butchers have warned of a shortage of lamb because supplies are not getting through.

Halal meat shortages

Hicham Habek, who runs Pak Halal Butchers in Shepherd's Bush, said the small quantity of meat he has received has jumped up in price.

He said: "I have difficulty explaining to the customers every day why we have different prices.

I can't get any meat at the moment, only poultry

Zarin Jan, Halal butcher

"But from today my suppliers said they couldn't supply me with any meat any more."

Some families may reluctantly be forced to change their menu to chicken or fish.

Zarin Jan who owns the Khyber Halal Meat shop also in Shepherd's Bush said: "I can't get any meat at the moment, only poultry."

The situation does not bode well.

Ritual slaughter

By tradition, this festival requires Muslims to carry out Qurbani - the ritual slaughter of an animal, normally a sheep.

In the UK, strict guidelines dictate that this is done at the abattoir and Muslims then buy the sacrificial meat at a Halal butcher.

Nizar Boga from the Islamic Cultural Centre
Nizar Boga: "people should be sensible"

It is decreed that the animal is in good health before any sacrifice takes place, a condition which would be difficult to meet under current conditions.

But religious leaders are concerned about the safety of animals in the light of the foot-and-mouth disease scare and last Friday at a packed service at the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, a special announcement was made before the commencement of prayers.

Donate to charity

Muslims were advised in the light of the crisis to make alternative arrangements for Qurbani and give money to charity organisations who would organise for the sacrifice to be carried out abroad.

The meat would then be distributed to the needy and impoverished in countries such as Indonesia, Morocco and Egypt.

This is nothing new, and most Muslims in the UK, who are rich compared to their Eastern cousins, regularly donate to charity during Eid to fulfil their spiritual needs.

But this year, the practice is certain to be observed in greater numbers.

Nizar Boga from London's Islamic Cultural Centre said that although the Qurbani is recognised as an essential part of Eid, it is not "fard" or compulsory. It is "sunnah" or optional.

He said: "My advice to everybody is to start being sensible about it."

Saeed Longulf
Saeed Longulf: Giving up meat

Worshippers attending prayers at the London Central Mosque tried to be optimistic about this year's festivities, in spite of the difficulties.

Saeed Longulf said: "I'm not going to eat meat this year.

"Normally we get lamb, but this year we won't."

Said Abouzaid said: "We just hope everyone is happy and enjoys the festival.

"I know the price of lamb has gone up this year, but whatever the cost, I will pay the price."

Dr. Ahmad Aldubayan, the director general of the Islamic Cultural Centre said: "I think a lot of people will be vegetarian for the next two weeks."

These words will ring true, not just for Muslims. It is thought many people, regardless of their religion, are re-assessing and adjusting their eating habits because their love-affair with meat has come to an end.

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