The Existential Threat of Halal Soup and Cereal

Mmm Mmm Muslim!

Listen, I understand that there’s a lot of (genuinely unfounded) fear and uncertainty being bandied about these days at the expense of Muslims. I get that many people are well-meaning but nonetheless (wrongly) afraid of some abstract Islamic threat. And I know that not all participants in this recent wave of Islamophobia sweeping America are inherently bigoted, racist, what have you. But a substantial portion of them are – and they are the ones leading the misguided flock.

A favorite target of these prophets of doom is the shariah boogeyman. Whether it’s select, out of context readings of the Quran; select, out of context Islamic terminology; or select, out of context historical examples, these “experts” are never at a loss for “evidence” that Islamic law is out to get you. This despite the fact that eminent (real) scholars regularly clarify topics that run the gamut from living in secular democracies to the permissibility of voting and the general tenets of shariah itself.

In keeping with their theme of logical, level-headed reactions to anything tangentially dealing with shariah, the far right is now calling for a boycott of one of America’s most recognizable brands for daring to *gasp* offer a line of halal-certified products. Eight months ago, Campbell’s rolled out 15 varieties of soup that complied with Islamic dietary regulations. Three weeks ago, the conservative blogosphere got wind of this. Needless to say, the soup hit the fan.

Soon, the usual suspects – Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, et al – were all up in arms. Within hours of the news “breaking” (again, eight months after the fact), a Facebook group entitled “Boycott Campbell Soup” went up featuring, as you can imagine, some pretty insightful commentary [sic]:

This is yet another example of just how dangerous creeping shariah is to Western Civilization, Democracy and all freedom loving peoples. There are stages to the islamization of non-islamic countries. […] This is just another way that terrorism and it’s sponsors are insinuating themselves into our culture, Terrorists are NOT freedom fighters they are murderous thugs and I will not pay money for soup or any other product that supports, aids or abetts their tactics. Hope someone puts a list out of all of Campbell’s affiliates.

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Did you catch that last part, all you soup sympathizers?!? How dare you associate with those who would aid our enemies with canned goodness!!

If It Makes Dollars, It Makes (Cres)cents

What this far-too-smart-to-be-fooled online observer fails to realize is that Campbell’s is not capitulating, its capitalizing. The six million or so Muslims in North America have over $200 billion in collective buying power – much of it untapped. So, really, the question shouldn’t be why is Campbell’s targeting this market, but why didn’t they do so sooner.

Indeed, it’s likely we’ll see more and more campaigns aimed at the relative affluence of American & Canadian Muslims. The fact that Campbell’s introduced their halal line after the flap over Best Buy’s small gesture and Dunkin’ Donuts’ non-gesture to the Muslim community indicates that this demographic’s buying power outweighs any manufactured backlash. As more companies start getting wise to the trend, the Muslim-American market won’t stay nascent for long.

It’s against this backdrop of potentially exponential growth that the second annual American Muslim Consumer Conference will be held this weekend in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Notably, it’s not just “Muslim” companies that will be in attendance – representatives from Best Buy, PepsiCo and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide are all scheduled to speak. Don’t be surprised if you see some “unofficial” reps from several major firms on the conference floor, too.

Bottom line is that the Muslim consumer in North America has the type of clout that can’t be undone through internet paranoia. The smart companies will go against the current societal grain and reach out to Muslims at a time when they feel most alienated. Granted, they may face some initial resentment, even retaliation. The long-term dividends they’ll reap, however, will likely more than make up for any short-term rough patches. In the meantime, they can rest assured that they’re not only doing the right thing, but the most profitable thing, too.

Keep Fear Alive

If there’s one bright spot to all this amped up insanity, it’s the hilarity that soon follows. During a recent episode of the Colbert Report, for example, Stephen Colbert wondered how Muslims could be so insensitive and erect a “tower of Islamic soup so close to Ground Beef.” He then went on to report that some conservative bloggers are wondering whether Kellogg’s cereals in America are “secretly halal,” since some of their British counterparts already meet Islamic dietary restrictions. Stephen affirmed these suspicions, noting: “Certainly some of their more high fiber offerings have declared a fatwa on my colon.”

Now, I’m not too sure about whether or not Kellogg’s is halal on the low, but a quick search of the IFANCA website shows that General Mills has halalified a number of their products in the U.S. already. I wonder how long before the right wingnuts call for a boycott of Cheerios? You’re on notice, Honey Nut bee!

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26 responses to “The Existential Threat of Halal Soup and Cereal”

  1. SonicSoriyah says:

    “Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, et al” are lunatics, plain and simple; especially Pam Geller. She shouldn’t even have a place on prime-time network cable news shows, but because of the mosque near Ground-Zero controversy she has had a platform to spew her ignorant mis-information. Thank you for such a light hearted take on their responses to the “halal soup,” threat……which I noticed actually is soups without any meat in them, so kind of by definition they are halaal (since they have no meat in them) and seems to be only with Campbell’s in Canada.

    • which I noticed actually is soups without any meat in them, so kind of by definition they are halaal (since they have no meat in them)

      Yeah, I noticed that, too. In fact, many of the (non-Muslim owned) halal-certified products (both under ISNA and IFANCA) seem to be meat-free and generally things that we wouldn’t think twice about whether they’re halal or not (skin cleansers, grain-based products, etc.). Cereal bars I kinda get, cause I guess some of them may have gelatin. The rest of this stuff though is a bit of a head-scratcher.

      Umm, interesting avatar, btw :P

      • sabirah says:

        you’d be so surprised how much pork in your everyday stuff is, like a bar of soap or even apple juice or shampoo or just a loaf of bread and toothpaste. I would never have thought it myself.
        Skin cleansers often have animal products and alcohol so there is a double eeek factor. I think we muslims don’t use our sheep and goats to the same extend than non muslim cultures use pork

        • Can’t say I know much about pork being in apple juice or bread. Any specific brands?

          With regards to cosmetics though, it seems they would be sufficiently changed through processing to purify whatever substances they contain. W’Allahu alam.

          Here’s a relevant (and renowned) article by Sh. Yasir on the permissibility of pork rennet in Doritos: http://muslimmatters.org/2007/07/09/of-mice-and-men-the-cheese-factor/

          There’s also legit iktilaaf on minute amounts of alcohol being najis when externally applied.

          • chemaatah says:

            Some brands of juice are filtered with gelatin, to remove the cloudy sediments. There are some weird consumers out there I guess, who don’t want to be reminded that their fruit juice comes from…fruit, and that traces of that fruit’s solids can sometimes be present in its juice.

            I’ve never been able to find an exhaustive list, brand wise. I know Ocean Spray uses bovine gelatin (from cows). Northland Cranberry juice doesn’t use gelatin. There’s a brand in the US called Clifstar, that uses gelatin for their grape juice, but doesn’t say if it’s bovine or porcine, but for their cranberry juice they use bentonite, which is clay.

            I love that Sh. Yasir article above too. It’s definitely a MM classic.

    • Hayden says:

      Hi,
      I would like to have online interviews with Muslims who have been directly affected by the Halal boycott in the West. These interview will be done will be done via msn chat, Skype or email, to the individual’s convenience. The questions will revolve mainly on your sentiments on the boycott, but might also touch on the discrimination of Muslims and Islamophobia. For those who are interested, please drop me, Hayden a reply at onyrruel@gmail.com.

  2. Abez says:

    Stephen Colbert (along with Jon Stewart) definitely has to be one of the few highlites of this whole Islamophobia thing.

    Overall, I just find it sad that so many people would be offended by a company even acknowledging that Muslims don’t want to eat non-halal products, it’s not like Campbell’s Chicken and Noodle has been replaced with hand-slaughtered zabiha chicken. They’re not changing how they do things, they’re just putting a little sticker on there that confirms what a Muslim could find out in ten seconds from reading the label.

    I hope Pam Geller never sets foot in the UAE- if she could see the Ramadan ads that McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut put up, and the CERTIFIED 100% HALAL! outside of each restaurant, the poor thing wouldn’t have anything left to eat in the US. If it’s really about morals (or the lack thereof), and if she really wants everyone to boycott Muslim business, then she might want to stop putting gas in her car. :p

  3. Tyler says:

    Here is a question: the companies say their new stuff is Halal, but they could just be tacking the name on it to just to get the business of another demographic. Of course we do not go around inquiring if people are really processing the halal way but I think for non muslim companies, we should at least question, or just avoid to be safe. I remember attending a weekend seminar on the Fiqh of Food and Clothing with Shaykh Y. Qadhi and he proposed an idea that I thought was great: a central body for halal certification of businesses in the US. He was just speaking in terms of Muslim owned businesses (as far as I remember) but now since mainstream American companies are slowly catching on to an untapped market, the business of this certification could be a very successful thing. Maybe people are already working on it! Insha’allah.

    • Actually Tyler, the Campbell’s certification comes from ISNA. IFANCA is another certification house.

      As for business certification, I would imagine that would be a bureaucratic and logistical nightmare – and that before all the different madhabi opinions enter the mix! It could probably only work on a local level; that is, a recognized body for New York, one for Houston, etc.

      I really do hope though that someone is working on this tho, especially in major metro areas.

    • someone says:

      i know in Canada false advertising is illegal, like you can have a strong case even with the smallest thing

  4. Shiraz says:

    Its funny how they are attacking the smallest, most meaningless things.

    I don’t think a lack of soup will stop a massive Islamic conspiracy.

    Wait till we Islamify the Double Down! (but that will give the Jihadists high blood pressure)

  5. Uthman says:

    Am I the only one who sees Colbert disrespecting the Prophet(sallAllah u alayhi wasallam) in this video. Please remove it!

  6. Ify Okoye says:

    Didn’t watch the video but excellent post. Growing up in the cold winters of New York, I very early on became a Campbell’s soup sympathizer.

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if people like Pam Geller and Robert Spencer can get so much media hype, the time has been long overdue for superstar dai’es to be consistently making media rounds.

    Abdur-Raheem Green just once on the Daily show easily adds up to at least 100 articles on MM.

    Harass the media for air-time!!

    On a side, my local Food Basics congratulated me on Eid ul-Fitr as well. If you want to make serious cash, start your own business targeting the Muslim demographic or they’ll take your place.

  8. ivoryTower says:

    Please remove this video immediately!!
    Towards the end it is making fun of the Prophet (PBUH)

    • Rifai says:

      Even though it appears sarcastic it is offensive to say the least

    • I genuinely didn’t remember that part of the clip – though, I have to say, it’s more borderline than outright offensive.

      I took it down cause it wasn’t an essential part of the article, but Colbert was satirizing those who would disrespect the Prophet (SAWS), not doing so himself. Fine line, and I know we shouldn’t have any tolerance for any level of disrespect (satirical or otherwise), but such things should be considered in the grand scheme of things, too.

  9. Omar says:

    Ahh the power of economics. In most cases, it trumps politics, ideology, and disagreement. Look at the US and China.

    • Jason says:

      I must first say I am not Muslim, but came across your site as a result of an article suggested to me by a Muslim friend. This is a great site, and i welcome the intelligent discussion of the ‘situation’ of Muslims and Islam in America. I chose to respond to this particular comment because I study China in school, and Omar’s words are absolutely correct. Money trumps all else, and the fact that people are trying to turn a strictly business decision into a political stump is laughable.

      Many other religions/cultures (Judaism, Hindu people.. etc) have dietary guidelines which are never really questioned or made fun of, yet here we are, with people causing a scene over Campbell’s soup, just because Muslims in America is a central political issue, and it’s almost election time. If more Americans would actually think about what’s going on in our country, and make logical decisions rather than those based on fear, we would not be in this mess.

  10. Megan says:

    wow…this article made me laugh (at this horrible odd late ridiculous hour where I’m still up completing my children’s school reports for turn in tomorrow…homeschooling…)

    but the video was…funny, and strange…but everybody, I can’t help but be amazed at how CENTER STAGE Islam is in America right now…. like wow.

  11. chemaatah says:

    The article I read said that Geller’s issue with halal Campbell’s was specifically the ISNA’s certification of the soups. She’s putting all kinds of slander and such out there about ISNA, and has done so for years. Supposedly, it’s not the existence of halal soups that’s bugging her, but who’s certifying them. Just thought I would put that out there, because in that case, it’s important to emphasize how blatantly wrong and slanderous her accusations are against ISNA, rather than the defense of the existence of halal products, along with every other religious groups “special” products on the market. That’s not the gist of Geller’s argument.
    –here’s the article I read.
    http://www.aolnews.com/world/article/campbell-soups-canadian-halal-certification-stirs-protest/19680215

    • I remember reading something along those lines as well, but it seems like pretext more than anything. Her views on ISNA are misguided – to say the least – but I doubt if they inform her stance on Campbell’s all that much. I mean, this episode fits nicely in her whole “creeping sharia” campaign that she uses to drum up false outrage and ink six-figure book deals.

      Here, too, it comes down to dollars, not morals.

  12. Farhan says:

    you gotta admit, them saying “Campbell soup supports terrorism” is kinda funny :-)

  13. The rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric in the last several years is alarming and deeply worrisome. But it’s reassuring that companies are ignoring the right-wing brouhaha and continuing to reach out to Muslim consumers.

  14. Pete Entz says:

    One reason we are so against what is happening is not just unfounded fear or afraid that Cambell Soup is supporting terrorism but it is from islamic sites themselves that worries me of what is happening and that even the question comes up like it did in Ontario that should or shouldn’t sharia be allowed to be used in certain circumstances. That is what worries me.
    http://www.askimam.org/

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