Muslims warned: don't drink poisonous 'holy' water
Jamie Doward and Charlie Francis-Pape
Sunday October 7, 2007
British muslims are being warned that criminal gangs are
operating a multi-million pound illegal racket selling them
fake holy water wrongly labelled as having come from Mecca.
The black market trade in fake 'Zam Zam' water - named after
the 14ft-deep well in the holy city in Saudi Arabia from
where the genuine substance flows - is becoming a serious
concern for health officials.
have found that much of the water smuggled into the UK illegally
and labelled as if it has come from the holy spring, which
is visited by millions of Muslims every year as part of
the Hajj pilgrimage, contains high levels of arsenic and
nitrates that can be fatal if regularly consumed over time.
The scale of the racket is alarming Muslim leaders who have
called on their followers to boycott all forms of the product
on sale in Britain. In one recent case, Dr Yunes Teinaz,
an environmental health expert who advises the London Central
Mosque, found an Islamic bookshop that was selling an estimated
20,000 litres of Zam Zam water a week.
'This water is contaminated and unsafe for the consumer,'
Teinaz said. 'And people are making millions of pounds selling
the water selling for £3 for a small can, it is a
huge moneyspinner for the gangs involved. Teinaz said it
was unclear exactly where the water was coming from, but
that it cannot be genuine Zam Zam water. It is illegal for
Zam Zam water to be commercially exported from Saudi Arabia.
The bottling of the genuine substance and its distribution
is monitored strictly by the Saudi government.
reveal some of the imported water contains almost three
times as much nitrate and twice as much arsenic as the World
Health Organisation believes is safe. Studies show 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 south east Asia. Diluted arsenic has been associated
with disorders of the nervous system, loss of sensation
in the limbs and hearing impairment.
said he also believed some unscrupulous operators in Britain
were mixing normal tap water with salt and marketing it
as Zam Zam water. He 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.
of the water is smuggled into Britain in crates of vegetables
and furniture, according to customs officials.
Zam water is sacred within Islam and its provenance is recorded
in Islamic texts. According to the Koran, the Prophet Ibrahim,
his wife Hagar and their baby son, Ishmael, found water
hard to come by after settling in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Hagar thought Ishmael was dying, she searched for water
with no success. After offering prayers to Allah, a gush
of water appeared under the feet of Ishmael and it has continued
to flow from the spot ever since. Today Muslims from all
over the world visit the well, believing it to be divinely
Zam water is extremely important for more than a billion
Muslims,' Teinaz said. 'Muslims believe it not only has
healing powers but it is important to them spiritually as
well. Whenever people see it they will buy it.'
Zam Zam water was tested in 1971 and found to be fit for
drinking. Tests showed it had a greater quantity of calcium
and magnesium salts than normal water, which may explain
why it can help refresh pilgrims. It also contains fluorides
that can help combat germs.
The Food Standards Agency has warned Muslims
not to buy the water. A number of London councils, have
seized fake bottles. Earlier this month trading standards
officers seized bottles from a shop in Notting Hill, west
London, and similar seizures have been carried out in Gloucester,
Barnsley and Leicester.
of the water