Beware: Serving pork can be more deadly than eating it
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-11-25
MOST people are familiar with the health risk that we can kill ourselves by overeating pork. Until the early primetime telecasts of Nov. 21 and the Inquirer story the next day, many of us did not realize that we could also get killed by simply serving pork!

According to the news reports, that was what almost happened to Virginia Altamirano, Dining Manager of Shangri-La's Finest (a food caterer that services the House of Representatives). Altamirano was reported to have been physically confronted by Representative Faysah Dumarpa of Lanao del Sur province after the congresswoman got enraged for having been misled into eating pork that she thought was not an ingredient in the noodle dish that she ate.

Muslims are forbidden to eat pork, which Islam considers as very unsavory meat. Their aversion to pork is deeply rooted in their consciousness -- pork is one of the Muslim's greatest fears. Muslims consider dying with a pig to be just about the worst, most shameful way that they can die.

After the September 11 World Trade Center tragedy (or more popularly referred to now as 9/11), my friend Dyords Javier generated a lot of laughs for his "anti-terror foolproof defense plan" that would prevent Muslim terrorists from attempting airplane suicide crashes like the ones that razed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers to the ground. Dyords proposed that airline companies should always bring along a live pig in the cargo area, so no self-respecting Muslim would want to crash with that plane.

Come to think of it, religions manage to have their thing about "forbidden food" whether it is forbidden during certain periods of the year -- the way Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat during specific days of the Lenten season -- or at any time as in the ban of pork in the Muslim diet.

Jews have their kosher. Some Buddhist sects avoid eating animals out of compassion and reverence for life. Vegetables they say do not shed blood or cry in pain as when an animal is slaughtered.

"My God! I can give up all my wealth but I can't give up my faith!" Representative Dumarpa averred on television.

"To Muslims, eating pork is akin to taking poison!" she added as she tried to dramatize the effect of having eaten pork, albeit unknowingly. It was also a way to suggest justification for her actions against Altamirano who appears to have been also the recipient and victim of wrong information.

"Pinagsasampal, minura at inambahang saksakin pa siya ng bread knife" ["Slapped around, cursed and threatened with the stab of a bread knife"] was how the news reports narrated the ordeal of Altamirano allegedly under the hands of Representative Dumarpa.
Representative Dumarpa says she does not recall pointing a bread knife at Altamirano.

In the eyes of others, the mode of retribution far outweighed the offense -- more so when one takes into account that there was no evidence whatsoever of any willful or malicious intent on the part of the alleged offender. I myself doubt if even a Muslim court will attempt to justify the slapping, cursing and stabbing of another person for unwittingly leading a Muslim to eat pork.

But what made a bad situation worse was the reaction of another Muslim solon, Representative Benasing Macarambong. Shown on national television, Representative Macarambong said that Dumarpa was still kind in the way she reacted.

"Kung sa akin nangyari ‘yan, hindi ko alam kung anong magagawa ko." Macarambong said. "Muslims can kill ‘pag pinakain sila ng baboy, you know." he added. ["If that happened to me, I don't know what I would have done. Muslims can kill if they are made to eat pork."]

The incident did not go unnoticed as media and the public reacted. Our parent company's radio commentators on GMA Network's radio station DZBB were up in arms in protesting the behavior of Representative Dumarpa and the statement of Representative Macarambong that suggested a sort of death fatwah for those who feed Muslims pork.

The media and public outrage over the incident cannot and must not be considered a Christian-Muslim thing. It has nothing to do with religious fervor and everything to do with some people's low regard for human dignity and human life.

I have been to the Focolare Movement's many dialogues with our Muslim brothers and I do not think any of the Muslims I've met will ever condone the act of slapping, cursing and threatening to stab another person who made the honest mistake of feeding pork to a Muslim. This utter disregard for the dignity of another human being should concern Muslims more than Pope Benedict XVI's recent reference to a factual historical quote about violence and Islam.

Even another Muslim congressman, Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao province, shared the view that the reaction went overboard. He thought that the incident should not have gotten to the extent that it did.

Datumanong even felt that whoever ate the pork has to also share the blame for the transgression. He said: "Ako kasi, I felt na kasalanan ko din naman ‘yon na pumayag akong kumain noon, hindi lang kasalanan noong caterer." [“I felt that it would also be my transgression if I allowed myself to eat it, it was not just the mistake of the caterer."]

It is providential that a Muslim -- Representative Datumanong -- said that. Christianity and Islam, Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, for too long, have been the biggest victims of extremists like the Al Qaeda, in the case of Islam, and the Crusaders of the 12th century and the more recent Ku Klux Klan, in the case of Christianity.

Let's condemn the Nazis who committed genocide on the Jews. Let's condemn the Jews who now wantonly slaughter Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in this Israeli "An eye for an eye" policy of retribution. And by all means, let us also condemn those who would suggest the taking of another man's life over a matter of serving the wrong menu.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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