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article imageHoly Water scandal brewing in London

By Alexander Baron     May 6, 2011 in Crime
A report of an exposé by a BBC local news programme together with some background information into the illegal sale of Zam Zam Water in London.
Reporters from BBC Television’s London News programme have uncovered a bizarre scandal that is a serious threat to the health of Moslems in the capital, and possibly nationwide or worse - the sale of “holy water” contaminated with arsenic.
The Well of Zamzam is located within the Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, the largest mosque in the world, which is itself located in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. The Mosque attracts visitors from all over, especially during the Hajj, many of whom drink from the Well.
In the Saudi capital, Zam Zam Water (or Zamzam Water) is distributed free to pilgrims, who are permitted to take home small bottles, but the Saudis, ever conscious of their role as the guardians of the holiest sites in Islam, have banned its commercial export. That hasn’t stopped a trade growing up in it, or in what appears to be Zam Zam Water, but this is at best an attempt to take the faithful for a ride, and at worse could seriously endanger their health, because rather than having the miraculous qualities attributed to the real thing, the Zam Zam Water the BBC found being peddled under the counter in London is high in arsenic, and other substances that make it unsuitable for human consumption.
After an investigation lasting several weeks, the BBC found a warehouse selling fake Zam Zam Water in large containers; it is clear from the undercover video recording that the people selling it know they shouldn’t be.
One unscrupulous dealer told the reporter that when Customs seized some of his imports they told him it contained arsenic. When asked: “Do you know what arsenic is?” he replied “Yeah, it’s very dangerous”, but he said the claim was false. Which begs the question: how does he know?
The BBC sent some of their purchases for what they called a comprehensive analysis, and were told by the Association of Public Analysts the water contained “excessively high nitrate levels – problematic for small babies; potentially harmful bacteria...and...arsenic”.
Unsurprisingly, this is not a new problem; two years ago trading standards officers in Lancashire found alleged Zam Zam Water being sold within their jurisdiction, complete with arsenic at almost three times the legal limit, and two years before that, the Food Standards Agency issued a similar warning, this time relating to the same product being peddled in Central London. But the BBC may have opened a real can of worms , not by forwarding evidence of the illegal trade to the authorities, but by asking a pilgrim to bring back a bottle of the real thing from Mecca. According to reporter Guy Lynn, the sample was indistinguishable from the presumably fake product on sale in the East End of London. This is in complete contradiction to what might be called the official Islamic line, that the water today has the same special properties attributed to it by Islamic tradition. Whatever action British public health agencies take, this is a story that looks likely to run and run.
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