JUST over two years ago I wrote a piece on my blog entitled “The Majlis goes snap, crackle and pop”. In it I dealt with the fulminations of its author, a now elderly maulana based in Port Elizabeth, who for several decades has published a broadsheet called the Majlis.
My article was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, if not satirical – a gentle poke at the misogyny, censure and theological insanity that has traditionally spewed from its pages. Characterised by its fiery phraseology and flowery syntax, the Majlis has always been an entertaining, if not mind-boggling read.
The reason for my writing was an issue of the Majlis viciously skewering a halal body (in this case the wrong one) on the question of Kellogg’s cereals being declared halal. The Majlis had quoted a letter from Kellogg’s saying that animal gelatine had been used in Kellogg’s products.
However, it had been discovered that none of the products mentioned in the letter had ever been sold, or manufactured, in South Africa. The letter was from Kellogg’s USA who had had nothing to do with Kellogg’s SA.
This had come after the Majlis had launched a full frontal attack – Majlis style with blasting verbal scuds – on two major halal bodies, claiming that a chicken farm producing halal chickens was not being run along halal lines. The Majlis’ aspersions on the chicken farm were found to be as spurious as Kelloggs’ cereals being haram.
Response to my piece in the comments thread had been interesting, with one correspondent shouting at me in loud capitals for not responding to his comments (I did the next day). For this I was accused of being “one-sided”, “sadistic” and a “sad case”.
One person misunderstood my argument; that using the USA letter as proof of wrongdoing in South Africa was not only rank bad journalism, but downright devious. Nevertheless, my article was still described as a “specimen of rubbish”.
Haroon (was it his real name?) remarked that judging from the way I wrote, and my understanding of life, I was what my surname suggested – minus the “t”. In vintage Majlis style I was ordered to stick to my “womanish chatter and cackles” and to “leave the man’s world to real men”. In parting, I was informed that my brains were made of cheese.
Abdullah told me that I wouldn’t last five minutes in a debate with the Majlis. “They will (sic) taer u apart…u don’t even understand the halal industry,” he said.
Gud Apple (at least some of the pseudonyms were original) didn’t disagree entirely on the issue of the letter, but broad-sided a halal body for its “utterances and assurances” on Kelloggs. Gud Apple scolded me for not understanding what takfir is (the declaring of unbelief, Gud Apple,) and assured me that the Majlis had never denounced anybody’s faith.
After a month, as is usually the case, the thread fizzled out and the blog became dormant, with the odd comment coming through – like Abdul Khatib in Pakistan saying I had no knowledge of Islam, and Zaheera observing that the Majlis just ranted and raved.
In May this year, the thread sparked into life again, and I was astounded – again – at the literalist, insubstantive knee-jerk response to my article, and my satiric suggestion of “not knowing” whether the Majlis was “man woman, committee or comrade” being taken seriously at face value.
Whilst I had assiduously focused on the Majlis, and not its author, mmb786 told me that the person behind the broadsheet was “a great devotee of Allah”, in fact, a “saint”. I was accused of hatred and hypocrisy and of never having read the Majlis with “an open heart and a clear mind”.
Malik – whom I fondly call the “budgie” – repeated his post (again) that I would “snap, crackle and pop in hell” for everything that I’d done.
Myself (not me) posted that I, “Shafiq Moron”, was a “coward” for not trying to find out who the Majlis was. I was reassured that the honourable editor would not bash my brains out when I met him, even if I deserved that fate.
He continued that before I condemned (debated) any scholar of Islam I had to put a beard on my face (I already have one) and “a topi and a kurta on”. And in the closest thing that had got near to wit in two years of correspondence, he had added: “Right now we can’t make out whether you’re a man, woman, clown or shaytaan”.
A response by Faisal that Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Ansari had told a group in the 1970’s to rather shave off their beards than carry on insulting the Prophet (SAW) through their behaviour got mmb786 into a right royal lather.
So did Faisal’s comment that the dedication of the editor of the Majlis was not a sufficient reason to judge the worth of it. “The worst of dictators and tyrants have been very committed and dedicated people”, he said, adding that the “true morons”, the followers of “cults”, never learnt anything.
For that, for a comment which I did not make, the “t” in my name was deemed to stand for “treacherous”.
My comments on adab i-ikhtilaf, the ethics and conduct of public discussion, fell ignored by the wayside when Myself sternly lectured me: “Your appearance alone is against the Sunnat, and your appearance speaks a lot for who you are and what you follow”.
Unfortunately, space does not allow us further discussion in what has been a fascinating, if not frustrating journey – fascinating because of those whose response to any kind of question outside their narrow box is to fulminate while hidden behind pseudonyms, and frustrating because the level of debate has never been able to rise much above the infantile.
I ‘m tempted to utter many things in response, but I suspect that here discretion will be the better part of valour. But suffice it to say that if there’s no real beef between the buns, it’s impossible to discuss the burger.