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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Arabs importing poisonous "holy water" to UK

From Arab News:
Allegations that poisonous Zamzam water is being smuggled into Britain are exercising the minds of UK Muslims. The containers, which sell for the equivalent of SR25 each, are purporting to come from Makkah on their labels.

Containers that have been analyzed by UK health and safety officials have been found to hold water that contains raised levels of arsenic and nitrates that, if consumed over extended periods of time, could prove fatal.

Saudi Arabia forbids the sale of Zamzam. The holy water is freely distributed at its source. Its bottling and distribution is strictly controlled and monitored by the government and commercial export is illegal. Each year, however, millions of foreign pilgrims carry containers home as private export.

Genuine Zamzam, analyzed in 1971, contains greater quantities of calcium and magnesium salts than most other waters. It also contains fluorides that strengthen teeth’s enamel.

However, some of the fake Zamzam has been analyzed and found to contain almost three times as much nitrate and twice as much arsenic as the World Health Organization believes is safe. Children under six months and elderly people are particularly vulnerable to excessive nitrate while regular consumption of arsenic in water is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year in southeast Asia.

...The Health and Social Services website of the Central London Mosque (www.iccservices.org.uk) quotes a BBC article reporting the seizure of a consignment of suspected fake Zamzam at the start of Ramadan by Westminster City Council.

The “Muslim Weekly” in the UK reported last week that inspectors in the London Borough of Hackney seized a vanload of contaminated counterfeit cases of the water.

Similar seizures have been carried out in Gloucester, Barnsley and Leicester.

The potential for fraud and the profit in sale of fake Zamzam to the unwary is huge. In a recent case quoted by Teinaz, an Islamic bookshop was selling an estimated 20,000 liters of Zamzam water a week.

Teinaz said he “was aware” of examples of vans transporting vast quantities of the fake water to mosques where their imams ordered their followers to buy the substance. Some of the water, according to customs officials, is smuggled into Britain in crates of vegetables and furniture.

Speaking to “Muslim Weekly”, Teinaz said traders had misled the authority at air and seaports for years telling them that Zamzam was for external use.

“I would like to urge those selling the water to fear Allah. They’re making money at the expense of their brothers and sisters’ health who will end up very ill by consuming the contaminated water,” he said. “It is very sad to see a Muslim cheating another Muslim.”

As opposed to....?

The Arab News is adamant that this water is not from the real Zamzam well, seemingly based on a chemical analysis from 1971. It would be interesting to see if newer analysis confirms that.