It’s not the kind of headline you see every day: “Chef prepared curry after wiping bottom with his bare hands ‘for cultural reasons.’”
If you’re not a traveler, the good news is that this particular chef isn’t located in the United States but in Swindon, England. The bad news is that “cultural reasons” is a euphemism for religious reasons. And the religion involved is Islam, which is everywhere.
When health inspectors visited the kitchen of a restaurant called “Yeahya Flavour of Asia,” they found an empty bottle covered with brown crust that they later concluded was fecal matter. The bottle belonged to Chef Mahbub Chowdhury, age forty-six. He explained that he filled the empty milk bottle with water from the kitchen taps before using it to clean his backside after going to the toilet.
The chef, who no longer works at the restaurant, pleaded guilty to ten counts of breaching food hygiene regulations at Swindon Magistrates Court. Apparently this isn’t his first violation. He was fined more than £5,000 (the equivalent of over $7,000) last year for ten similar offenses relating to food hygiene.
Is this conduct really a part of Islam? Apparently it is. Just last year, in fact, the Directorate of Religious Affairs for the Republic of Turkey finally got around to publishing a decree to tell Muslims that it was “acceptable” to use toilet paper. Acceptable, but not preferred. The preferred method is to use water, as Chef Chowdhury was doing. “If water cannot be found for cleansing, other cleaning materials can be used,” reads the decree. “Even though some sources deem paper to be unsuitable as a cleaning material, as it is an apparatus for writing, there is no problem in using toilet paper.”
But that’s just Turkey. Outside of Turkey, Muslim God experts have devoted enormous energy to developing an extensive code, called the Qadaahul Haajah, governing precisely how God wants you to do your business. One English-language Muslim website, which claims to have had over 2.9 million visitors, provides a number of helpful rules for the perplexed:
- One should enter the toilet with one’s left foot and exit with one’s right foot.
- One should not talk or sit for a long time or read anything like a newspaper, or sing a song.
- One should neither face Mecca nor turn one’s back toward it while urinating or defecating.
- One should remove the feces on one’s anus with one’s finger, then wash one’s hand. [Apparently, this was Chef Chowdhury’s practice.]
- When cleaning the private parts after answering the call of nature, men should wash them from the back to the front. Women should wash them from the front to the back. Thus, the genitals will not be smeared with filth, nor will it cause one to be sexually aroused by the stimulation of fingers.
- One should sprinkle some water over one’s underpants after cleaning one’s private parts. By doing so, when one notices wetness on one’s underpants, one will not feel doubt as to whether it is urine or not.
- One should not look at one’s private parts or spit into the toilet.
- The right hand is placed on the right cheek and the left hand is placed on the left one. When there is the need to use a hand, the right hand should remain on the right cheek and the left hand should be used. This is the proper way.
- Cleaning the private parts with stones and similar materials is an acceptable substitute for cleaning them with water.
None of this is parody; all the website information is presented here nearly verbatim. Another dead serious English language website repeats many of these fascinating rules, while adding a few more:
- A person must relieve themselves as infrequently as possible, as the natural functions of the body are sinful and unclean.
- You shouldn’t eat while using the toilet.
- If you do clean yourself with stones, you should use an odd number of them, preferably three.
Still another website provides more valuable insights:
- In Paradise we will not have to relieve ourselves. Instead we will perspire and even the perspiration will be beautifully scented like musk.
- Habib bin Saleh (may Allah be pleased with him) has related that when the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) entered the toilet, he would put on his shoes and cover his head.
- If the toilet is facing Mecca in your home, then try and sacrifice some money and have it changed as you will be sinning every time you use the toilet.
- ‘Aisha [one of Muhammad’s wives] says that, “Whosoever says that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would stand up and urinate do not believe them, he would urinate but sitting down.” One of the reasons of the punishment in the grave is because of urinating standing up.
- Upon entering the toilet, you should say: “O Allah I seek your protection from the male and female devils.”
- One should be very careful about the splashing of urine (as this is a grave sin).
- The sisters should cleanse themselves with the lower palm of the left hand, and do not separate the legs too wide.
- When cleansing yourself, males should hold their penis from the top with the left hand index finger and the thumb. Gently work your way down (as if milking an animal) so if drops are left they will come out.
- Without necessity do not look at your private parts, as there is a chance of the memory becoming weak.
Yet another Muslim website teaches that Muhammad himself forbade people from using bones, rather than stones, to clean themselves. Why? Because bones provide food for genies.
Islam is not the only religion with bizarre practices of hygiene. Some modern-day Jewish circumcision rituals are beyond disgusting. Christians spent centuries preaching against bathing and fought advances in medical science like smallpox inoculation tooth and nail.
My completely uninformed guess is that most ordinary Muslims, especially in this country, pay no attention to these lunatic rules, if they’re aware of them at all. Their existence, though, casts further doubt on politicians who never tire of preaching to us about “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” If these rules advance “progress” and “dignity,” I’d hate to see something that doesn’t.