By Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith, also known as Yusuf,  is a veteran U.K based blogger. He blogs at Indigo Jo Blogs- Blogistan where this article was first posted.

Last week a number of newspapers ran with prominent stories that supermarkets and restaurant chains were using halal meat, or had been doing so without their customers' knowledge for some time. This is actually not news as a number of supermarkets have been doing this for years, chiefly because New Zealand abbatoirs employ Muslim slaughtermen so that the lamb they produce can be supplied to the Middle East.

The media have been mixing the issue of the meat being halal with it being from animals that were not stunned before slaughter (which in fact is the case with only a minority of halal meat in the UK). It is the first time the story has made the front page of a national tabloid, however.

daily-mail-halal

Halal Meat in the UK

There are two types of halal meat in the UK: there is “HMC halal”, which is unstunned, and there is everything else, which is stunned. The Halal Monitoring Committee is run, I believe, by scholars of the Deobandi school, which has a strict policy that the animal should not be stunned as this would render it an injured animal (and unfit to be slaughtered) and some forms of stunning may actually kill the animal, which would mean it died unslaughtered (and is therefore unlawful to eat).

The HMC insist on animals being slaughtered in the way they always were before stunning was invented relatively recently, and as it still is in most of the Muslim world. Other slaughter monitoring agencies do not follow this position, although the majority of restaurants which claim to use halal meat do not even state who monitors the abbatoir or qualified the slaughter-man; however, many Muslims prefer HMC meat because suppliers as well as abbatoirs are monitored, so there is much less chance of the meat being mixed up with anything else.

Note to Sun: Kosher unstunned too

Muslims are not the only religious group that insists on slaughtering without stunning, of course: Jews do as well, and all the kosher monitoring groups (to my knowledge, there is one connected with the Chief Rabbi's office and another which serves the Haredi communities who mainly live in the Stamford Hill area of north London). While the controversy about non-stun slaughter affects them as well, and those who wish to ban non-stun halal slaughter also want to ban kosher slaughter, it is hard to imagine that the Sun would make it front-page news if a restaurant chain had been using kosher meat without telling its customers.

Of course, there is no economic imperative to do so, since the dietary rules in Judaism are much stricter than those in Islam (for example, there is no requirement to separate milk and meat products in Islam, and more types of meat are permissible in Islam, such as rabbit), so the use of halal meat would gain them many more customers than the use of kosher.

To make a front-page story of it, implying that customers were being “tricked” into eating something they otherwise would not have done for the sake of Jews, would obviously open the Sun up to charges of anti-Semitism, and in any case, the paper's well-known Zionist sympathies would preclude this.

They did this because they could get away with it.

What is Halal?

The use of halal chicken on its own does not make all the food a company sells halal. There has to be no haram (forbidden) ingredients; in particular, if food is cooked with an alcoholic drink, it becomes haram (most, but not all, Muslim authorities permit trace amounts of chemical alcohol, as found in food flavorings).

There must also be no danger of cross-contamination, and the danger in a kitchen where non-halal meat, particularly pork, is cooked is enormous. In the particular case of pizzas, many Muslims would regard cheese made with calf rennet, when the calf is not slaughtered in the halal way, as being haram (though not all, as the rennet was milk the calf had eaten and was extracted from its stomach; it was never part of the calf's body).

Many observant Muslims would never eat a meal in a restaurant which routinely cooked meat that was not halal, even if some of it was. Therefore, the number of Muslim customers the restaurant would attract would not be that great, although an advantage could be gained if the meat was cheaper (which halal chicken often is).

The Daily Mail got Taj Hargey, a fringe figure who is always on hand to tell non-Muslims what they want to hear about Muslims (namely that we're extremists and we're doing Islam wrong) to write a piece full of plainly false claims about the subject (see here for more on Taj Hargey's witterings). (I am not sure if it was in the print edition, but appears as part of their “RightMinds” blog section.)

He claims, for example, that “it is completely wrong that the food sensitivities of Britain's Muslims — who amount to just 4.8 per cent of the population — should take precedence over the other 95 per cent”. Of course, in any given area, the proportion of Muslims may be much higher than 4.8%, but the reason much supermarket meat is halal is because it comes from New Zealand which also exports to the Middle East, as already stated.

He goes on to claim that the Islamic rules on halal meat have “no theological basis in the Qur'an, the supreme text of Islam”, but rather comes from the hadith, “a secondary and often suspect source”, and alleges that “three of the main fundamentalist Muslim sects”, the Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood and Deobandis, “are foisting their fabricated notions about it down our collective throats”, which is utter nonsense, because mainstream Islamic scholars who do not belong to any of these sects insist that meat be slaughtered with the prayer (which cannot be said at the time of consumption over meat that was not slaughtered with it; that is a baseless position which has been refuted).

As for the position of the hadith, Muslims are well aware that there are hadith which are weak or even fabricated, but these are well-known. The word of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has always been regarded by the Muslims as a main source of Islamic belief and law. The words do not have the same status as the Qur'an, but they are still Revelation. The article comes at a time when Muslims, especially women, face persistent harassment in public places in many parts of the UK.

Real ramifications of bigotry

Ava Vidal wrote two articles this week for the Telegraph, one of them about the harassment she found that Muslim women were describing being subjected to, and the other about the abuse she received when she wrote the piece.

Vidal found that abuse of Muslim women has become normal, and that many women experience several incidents of verbal abuse or threatening behavior a week, but there have been some violent incidents including a pregnant Muslim woman being pushed to the ground and stamped on. Vidal found that most of the abusers were young men (the experience of my Muslim female friends is the same) and that some of them displayed misogynistic attitudes of their own, regardless of their purported concern for “oppressed Muslim women”.

One of her sources also observed that there was a link between media coverage of Muslims and upsurges of hostility, and the content of the abuse she received. So, prominent and hostile coverage of halal meat could easily lead to further attacks of the sort Ava Vidal identified.

As Richard Peppiat wrote in his resignation letter from the Daily Star, which alongside the fellow Desmond title the Daily Express has printed a number of prominent stories that were hostile to Muslims (and not just terrorists but ordinary Muslims):

You may have heard the phrase, “The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas.”Well, try this: “The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke's head caved in down an alley in Bradford.”

The role of the media in fostering hostile attitudes to populations that subsequently became victims of genocide is a well-documented fact, and we should not consider ourselves so civilized in this country that we are safe from falling into the abyss of communal violence in the right circumstances.

In Sri Lanka right now, where the Buddhist majority has succeeded in defeating an insurgency by the Tamil minority they oppressed (although the insurgency was brutal and committed atrocities of its own), they have now turned on the Muslims who supported them, and attacks on the halal meat industry have been an important part of that.

In France, fascists who control town councils have abolished pork-free school meals and told Muslim children that they can either eat pork or go hungry.

Concerned for animals? Go after factory farming

They do not do this out of concern for animals, as the suffering factory farming inflicts on animals far exceeds the brief pain of slaughter; rather, it is deliberate oppression. The Sun does not attack supermarket halal meat because its audience is really that bothered (many of them will have gone on holiday to Muslim countries where all the meat is halal, and eaten in Indian restaurants and off-brand fast food joints where all the meat is halal).

The purpose is to stoke hostility so as to sell papers, because it sells, but a by-product of selling papers is violence on the streets.

We cannot have violence in the streets and we cannot have government by tabloid; their activities must be regulated by law, or they must be closed down.

 

19 Responses

  1. Umm ZAKAriyya

    No wonder the Mercyhalal youtube video has so many views . Beautiful video! MashAllah.

    We should fwd that video so people know what halal actually means.

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  2. John Howard

    There a couple of points here that need to be asked. You claim that this is discrimination by non muslims over the issue of halal meat I would put it to you there is also the reverse If people do not want to eat halal meat then they are also entitled to have what they want.
    The fact that restaurants and shops supply halal to all their customers I am sure has been done for pure commercial reasons – One supplier One price keeps the price and inventory and wastage to a minimum. However no one has asked the majority of their customers if this is what they want. It is catering for a minority over the majority. If Britain was a muslim country would you be able to buy non halal meat? I seriously doubt it.
    The fact that if an abattoir goes completely halal then that precludes all non muslims working in that place of employment. Again an act of discrimination surely.
    The comment regarding the schools is also one to take issue with – your correspondent’s statement that schools in France have abolished pork free meals also begs the question why should any multicultural establishment only cater for one group. Surely they should cater equally. Both in this country and all of Europe the pig industry is a major agricultural industry. To deny non muslims access to this food staple is an attack on that industry and its workers.
    The issue of genocide is way too far fetched to be taken reasonably Since when has any minority in Britain been taken to the gas chambers here. Even the Irish at the height of the troubles were not legally discriminated against and there was certainly no carrying off into ghettos or concentration camps. The government paid their families welfare for the terrorists they tried and jailed.
    If there are places in Britain that can be called ghettos they are of muslim making and certainly not by government.
    The victim mentality is becoming tiring there have been many cases where the victims have been the locals – the pedophile gangs a case in point. You need to start understanding that muslims need to to better understand the sensibilities of their host countries because until you do there will be more of these “repressions” unintended or otherwise

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      • John Howard

        Firstly his argument is patently ridiculous. Every western country that I am aware of have laws and regulations in place regarding the slaughter of animals in an industrial/commercial environment. He implies that non halal/kosher slaughter is done in unsanitary manner and that the animals are often diseased etc. That is demonstrably untrue. If it were the case there would be an epidemic of food poisoning deaths and the majority of us would become vegetarian to survive. The fact that halal has similar rules is not the issue. The issue remains that non muslims have the right to know what they are eating and how it is slaughtered just as muslims do. Many of us have an issue with this for any number of reasons We have the right to know without having to ask

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      • WillOfAllah

        I couldn’t agree more with you. Most “islamic countries” are so intolerant to westerners/non-muslims, but we come up here and suddenly want to conscript host nations to follow our beliefs. Can a non-muslim fight for the right to consume alcohol in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia e.t.c? All these things are not permissible according to “our faith” not their’s. We should be realistic brothers. Wa Allahu a’alam.

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  3. Shelby

    Sorry but the majority of people find religious slaughter cruel and barbaric! Religious groups shouldn’t be exempt from animal welfare laws.

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    • Umm ZAKAriyya

      Shelby,
      It may appear so , since it’ is slaughtering a live conscious animal . And after slaughter( islamic and kosher), the animal appears undead and moving , which is actually just a spinal reflex .

      What should concern us more is the following –
      1)Which method is less painful? Stunned-slaughter or regular islamic/kosher slaughter

      2)which more healthy?

      Pls Google for the study conducted on the 2 types of slaughter . EEG recording proved stunning was the one that caused extreme pain . Whereas a quick islamic/jewish slaughter caused sudden loss of consciousness( more like a comatose state) due to severing of the blood supply to the brain and thus no pain on EEG.

      Health wise , halal/kosher meat is better because it has less blood retained in the carcass than stunned slaughter.
      When the spinal cord is intact , it induces spinal reflexes in the animal , causing muscle spasms in the DEAD animal , which further squirts out blood .

      There are many other benefits of islamic/jewish slaughter . Don’t judge by what you see , but the actual facts.

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      • Shelby

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Mahmud

        Shelby, I remember reading a recent study that shows slaughter is hardly painful.

        As for animal rights organizations, well, I don’t trust the people with an agenda against Islam.

        You failed to provide any proof that stunning is better than slaughter.

        Please do not enforce your barbaric methods on us Muslims.

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  4. O H

    Jazak Allaahu Khair Yusuf for raising awareness. In Australia they had similar sensationalist articles on the ‘radical’ & ‘terrifying’ halal meat issue. I hope there is an equivalent term to protect Muslims & Islam just as the ‘anti semitism label’ exists. The hypocrisy is baffling but not surprising as the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Seerah suggests..

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  5. Robert

    Muslims move to a new country presumably for the better life that that country offers They then want that host country to change the culture / way of life to “the way it was in the Muslims original country. Thereby recreating all the problems they were trying to leave behind ??
    Sorry but I don’t understand ,
    if you move to another country either accept that countries way of life or move on to another Muslim country that suits your Islamic beliefs its a free world.

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  6. Muhsinmuttaqi

    The article is good. However, I would like to correct one thing. The revelations that came to Rasulullah through Sunnah has the same value as the Revelations through Qur’an. The Sunnah of the Prophet is on the same level of Qur’an. There are incidences where a ruling that was realed in Qur’an was later abrogated through revelation to the Prophet that did not come down as an Ayah of Qur’an. The Qur’an and the Sunnah are equal. Just the manner of revelation is different.

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  7. marion

    I was told by a muslim friend that the cost of halal meat costs more than non-halal due to the additional time each individual animal takes to be prepared and to die. It this true?

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  8. Amanda

    I reject all meat, it’s a bit like arguing who’s murder MO is less violent.

    I receive lots of stigma for being vegetarian, expected to prepare, cook and eat halal meat. It’s equivalent of asking you to do the same with pork…. Embrace our differences

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