Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Religious organizations in Pakistan are using the Internet to help Muslims in Western countries buy and sacrifice animals for an annual festival


Eid al-Adha marks the end of the Haj pilgrimage each year to Mecca and is known as the feast of sacrifice. Muslims who can afford it buy and slaughter animals and distribute the meat among the poor and relatives.

Muslims in Western countries unable to perform the ritual can now buy an animal over the Internet, and even watch it being slaughtered, before its meat is given away.

"It is not easy for them to buy animals and carry out the sacrifice according to our religious rites in those countries," said Sohail Ahmed, an official at the Al-Khidmat trust Islamic welfare organization.

"They are turning to the Internet to complete their religious obligations," said Ahmed, whose organization offers the service.

In Pakistan, thousands of cows, goats, sheep and camels are sacrificed to celebrate Eid al-Adha, which this years falls in the first week of January.

Traditionally, sacrificial animal markets are set up in big cities and towns where traders bring animals in from villages.

Buying a sacrificial animal over the Internet is also becoming popular in Pakistan, said Farukh Sheikh of the Sahara trust for life.

"It is a matter of convenience. People nowadays don't have time to go to the markets and haggle over prices," Sheikh said.

"We are offering a service at competitive rates. People trust us to distribute the meat according to religious obligations among the poor and needy," Sheikh said.

The Alamgir welfare trust also offers the option of viewing the sacrifice on its Web site.

"We have a dedicated IP address and people can watch the sacrifice no matter which country they are in," said organization official Shakeel Dehalvi.

Some Islamic groups shun the Internet, however, as Web purchases involve paying interest, which is prohibited under Islamic law.

"On Web sites, normally buyers have to pay interest on purchases made on their credit cards," said Rizwan Edhi of the Edhi trust. "We're better off avoiding any controversy relating to Islamic laws."



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