Islamic Perspectives

A New (Old) Attack On Halal Food

A Belgian cabinet minister recently called for a total ban on Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter. Ben Weyts, animal welfare minister in the government of the Flemish Region - one of three entities that make up the federal kingdom of Belgium - said it was necessary to outlaw any slaughter of animals who have not been stunned prior to slaughtering.

Weyts, is a member of the New Flemish Alliance, a center-right movement which is the Flemish Region’s ruling party.

Religious laws in Islam and Judaism require animals be conscious when their necks are slit as quickly and painlessly as possible.

As with non-medical circumcision of boys, ritual slaughter of animals, is facing opposition across Western Europe by far-right politicians who view Jews and Muslims as a foreign element to their Christian culture; and by unreligious liberals who believe both ritual slaughter and circumcision are inhumane.

Meat slaughtered according to rules is Halal for Muslims and Kosher for Jews. “Halal” in Arabic means permissible or lawful. “Kosher” in Hebrew means proper or fit to eat. Halal is a general term for all that is permissible according to Islamic law. The term designates not only foods that are permissible according to Islamic law, but also all matters of daily life.

Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of Kashrut, the Orthodox Jewish dietary law. However, many Jews also use the term “un-kosher” to describe unfit social, moral and ethical behavior.

In both Jewish and Muslim law, slaughtering must be swift and at single point on the throat and blood has to be completely drained. The basic principle is: “forbidden to you is that which dies of itself, blood, pig flesh, that on which any other name than that of Allah has been invoked, the strangled (animal), that beaten to death, that killed by a fall, that killed by being smitten with the horn, and that which wild beasts have eaten, except what you slaughter, and what is sacrificed on stone (alters) set up (for idols) and that you divide by the arrows; that is a transgression” (Qur’an 5:3 and 6:145).

All of these prohibitions are also found in the Written Law of Moses and the Oral Torah law of the rabbinic tradition.
Halal requires a prayer before every slaughter. Orthodox Kashrut requires a holy intention to slaughter according to God’s commandments; but does not require a specific audible prayer before each act of slaughter. “Eat of that over which the name of Allah has been mentioned, if ye are believers in His revelations” (6:118).

For meat to be Halal, the slaughterer must be a religious Muslim and for meat to be Kosher the animal must be slaughtered by a religious Jew. Although the rules about the slaughter seem to be the same for both religions; it is not.

The term ‘Muslim’ slaughter applies also to Jewish slaughters for the Qur’an explicitly states: “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them” (5:5).

In Christian countries, most Muslims prefer to buy Kosher foods, that require strict avoidance of any contact, direct or indirect with pork products, because Kosher foods are fit/halal for Muslims.

Thus we can see that in the modern world, where millions of Muslims live as a minority within Christian lands, two developments have occurred. One, Muslims can rely on Kosher food, but not on non-kosher food products.

Two, although Orthodox Jews still cannot use Halal food, the majority of Jews, who are no longer Orthodox, and who now have a diet that is much closer to Halal than to strict Orthodox Kashrut, can and should use Halal food.   

Rabbi Maller’s website is: rabbimaller.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2016 on page no. 20

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