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29 March 2014. The first same-gender weddings in the UK. Attitude Magazine celebrate with a commemorative issue looking at all things nuptial. Was happy to be asked to contribute an article on celebrating LGBT Muslim (& non-Muslim) love, so here it is.

Congratulations to all the happy couples!

God bless.

Xxx

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My latest blog is inspired by a practice, it’s simplicity and good-naturedness I may have taken for granted that non-Muslims also understand, in a seemingly ever-increasingly ‘phobic’ world.

Halal meat.

Now, half my friends eat pork, don’t eat halal food, get intoxicated etc, and like other Muslims, I really have no issue with that because it’s none of my (God-damn! 😉 ) business. People observing my way of life can either join me or not. It’s not my business to preach and indeed I’m not blogging to convert anyone, just to be clear.

But over the years, likely to be exacerbated post-9/11, I have heard rumblings of discontent over this practice, culminating in a piece on The One Show in September this year where a particularly disgruntled member of the public was speaking about why many British people are against halal meat. Initially surprised years ago when I first heard that people could possibly have an issue, this very soon changed to not-being-surprised-at-all considering people can be just plain prejudiced, particularly post-9/11.

Negative Islamic stories in the media being the norm these days, I was nevertheless surprised to first hear in 2009 a mini-uproar at KFC’s plans for some of it’s chains to serve halal chicken. Mainly because, Muslims who before couldn’t get themselves a fix of some of the ‘Colonel’s’ fried-chicken now could, it wouldn’t stop non-Muslims from eating it and it would surely be better for KFC’s profit, so everyone’s happy….no?

It appeared not. People were up in arms over their ‘freedom’ being compromised and objected to this ‘barbaric’ practice. And the guy on The One Show, before being informed of the practice on site by halal butchers, said he had the right to know if meat he ate was halal or not, as non-Muslims have the right to not take part in this practice.

Hmmm.

So, doing my bit to help people make an informed decision for themselves, here is an attempt to cut through the offal to get to the meaty truth. (Sorry 😉 ).

POSSIBLE MISCONCEPTIONS…

Cruelty

First things first – unless you’re a vegetarian, you could say that sacrificing any animal for consumption is cruel, full stop.

The One Show mentioned that in the West, animals are stunned before sacrifice, and as most halal butchers don’t, this is therefore cruel.

First of all, if no halal methods are available, then Muslims can of course eat what animals they like to survive.

So what is halal sacrifice exactly? It is where animals are slaughtered by a human making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck, cutting the jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides together with the trachea and oesophagus but leaving the spinal cord intact in this initial cut. Within seconds, the blood pressure in the brain falls to zero and the animal becomes unconscious, and so feels no pain as the knife is sharp. And this is done while a prayer is said, which is for the animal and also to bless the meat.

This is fundamental – if the animal feels pain, it cannot be considered halal.

But halal doesn’t stop there.

Animal Welfare

Like ‘kosher’ for Judaism, halal for Muslims means anything that is fit for consumption / inclusion in life that is good and respectful for all.

Most people have probably heard of halal food, where like with kosher, livestock that are permitted to be consumed are sacrificed in a certain way in God’s name to allow them to be fit for consumption. It also bans the consumption of pork, blood, carrion or animals killed by strangulation, being beaten, by predators or other non-halal means.

But the concept of halal is not just for food. It extends through life, complimenting Islamic principles to help guide individuals in living a decent life and in considering each other’s welfare.

In exactly the same way, halal food means the welfare of the animal throughout it’s life is of utmost importance. The privilege of eating animal protein implies a duty to animals from their rearing right through to their slaughter. So battery-hens or stunning cooped up animals on a conveyor belt are equally non-halal. Organic principles anybody? Yup, Islam had them from the beginning.

People’s rights to choose what they eat

I’ve come across some internet forums where people have expressed not only their disapproval of eating halal food, but that it represents an ‘Islamification’ of the West – Muslims forcing their way on non-Muslims.

Not to go off on a tangent, but the vast majority of Muslims don’t want to force people to do anything, because to do so is against Islamic principles.

But coming back to the point, I agree that any place where meat is served should state not only whether it is halal or kosher, but also whether it is organic or not, and other such factors. Totally agree that people should have the right to know what is on offer so they can choose to eat it or not.

But really…let’s be honest about what this exact ‘disapproval’ is of. Is ‘Joe Bloggs’ really that concerned about the welfare of the cow used for his beef-burger or the pig used for his hotdog? Mmmmm? Of course not. OK, of course more and more people these days genuinely are concerned, and so they should be. But I think for a lot of people, it’s more the fact that they just don’t want to feel that, at best, they are ‘encouraging’ or supporting Muslims, and at worst, they just don’t want anything to do with them. Am I right? Am I wrong?

I uphold anyone’s right to have the freedom to live how they please. But not if it’s through ignorance or lying about what the real reasons are.

So there you have it. 🙂

It turns out that some of the KFC branches had to revert to non-halal food as they also had to stop serving bacon on the premises, which led to a big reduction in sales (I know, I know, the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail). And quite right too! It’s simple business and the unwritten ‘law’ of the majority. If more people are going to be disadvantaged / inconvenienced from eating somewhere than those who would benefit, then it’s completely wrong to change things.

But in KFC branches located in parts of town where the vast majority aren’t going to touch bacon products, then why not have it halal? And non-Muslims who may be in the minority in that small town just won’t be able to have bacon – OK, I can see that as seeming unfair, but they can still have chicken if it’s halal, if they want to, and eat bacon elsewhere, it doesn’t make a difference. After all, large numbers of Nando’s are halal and have been for years and most non-Muslims eat there happily side by side with Muslims…when you’re hungry, you’re hungry!

Interestingly, there was a study done on comparing halal slaughter with non-halal slaughter. By no means is this post an attempt to criticise non-halal slaughter, but it makes for interesting reading where it states that ‘stunning’ and the subsequent procedures actually cause pain and not the opposite. See what you make of it, Deutsche Tieraerztliche Wochenschrift (German Veterinary Weekly), 1978; Volume 85: Pages 62-66.

So be a vegetarian, be a meat-eater, but use your (meat)loaf.

Light-Hearted Comedy Bit!

I tried to find the Pam Ann sketch on her dealings with offering halal food…but found this Malaysian skit. It’s a bit weird! :-/ But it’s not afraid to use humour and is actually quite informative, so I like it, hope you do too!

This Saturday 23 Oct 2010, from 7pm – 9pm, sees the 2nd annual candlelit vigil at Trafalgar Square to mark International Day against Hate Crime. Speakers include Peter Tatchell, Rikki Beadle-Blair and Stuart Milk, nephew of the trail-blazing Harvey Milk. The vigil is a chance to galvanise all in uniting against prejudice, driving out hatred and celebrating our differences as equals, globally.

Last year’s vigil was highlighted by a string of homophobic killings, the most high-profile being Ian Baynham, 62, who after retaliating to homophobic verbal abuse, was punched and kicked to death by 3 teenagers in Trafalgar Square.

No doubt you’ve all heard of the tragic number of suicides reported in America, of those tormented, desperate children driven to taken their lives, because they just couldn’t take it any more.

But the sad truth is, the media often report on similar stories in a ‘cluster-like’ fashion; I know suicides such as these have been going on around the world for years, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. Here’s a link to a great project for all those in despair, urging them to know, it will get better: It Gets Better.

No doubt this news will have boosted a greater number of people to attend. And for those who can’t make it, there will be a 2 minute silence at 8pm around the world, so even at home you can do your bit and light a candle.

I’m sure (and hope!) those reading this don’t need my encouragement to observe this day.

But just in case anyone was a little ‘meh’ about the whole thing, 2 happenings this week showed me some people should be rounded up and forced to take part.

The first was Saturday evening. At my bus-stop on the way to town. Shortly joined by 3 girls, barely ‘double-figures’ in age, full of the usual self-aware ‘pomp and circumstance’ in their loud chatter that a lot of young girls from Bermondsey possess.

Bless.

As we all know, young ones these days like to be loud. Waiting for my bus, it was impossible to not hear their conversation. Unsurprisingly banal, attention-seeking of course, but inoffensive even if rather annoying. And then they spot a bloke going into the pub opposite, a renowned gay pub.

“What do you think they do there?” “Probably fuck each other up the arse.” “FAGGOT!” “BATTY-BOY!”

Now to be fair, if this infamous pub wasn’t so grotty with a sleazy-reputation, less niche shall we say, and looked more welcoming, you could argue that those comments wouldn’t have arisen.

But the pub’s been there for years, and it troubles no-one. It doesn’t hold loud parties or interfere with anyone else’s business. The punters aren’t raucous or troublesome. They keep themselves to themselves.

And yet, it’s deemed clever and acceptably bullish for some young people to shout abuse at people. And that’s probably the kind of abuse all those kids faced for years before topping themselves. It’s ‘learned’ as acceptable in schools to say this to anyone who’s different.

OK, everyone gets bullied at school. And if you’re ‘different’, you’re going to get a bit of stick. BUT the difference is, apart from LGBT adults particularly since Section 28 was scrapped, who ever sticks up for LGBT youth in schools? Because if teachers, parents, and all adults don’t, then children ‘learn’ it’s OK to put down anyone who is ‘different’, but ‘learn’ it’s not acceptable to be sexist or racist. (Humour aside – as long as it’s on a level playing-field).

Having not acknowledged them thus far, letting their 60-decibel girly-chat get lost in the wind (as one does, of course), at hearing this I couldn’t help but glare. They looked proud, even when our eyes met, although this was mixed with a distinct look of apprehension.

“Aren’t you brave and clever?!”, I confronted.

At that very moment my bus came, and I stepped on before one of the girls did. They didn’t say anything, or at least I didn’t hear. It probably changed nothing in the short-term, but I wonder if in the long-run they’ll question themselves.

To be honest, a lot of kids are horrible like this, maybe some reading this were / are, and they do change…but some don’t. And again, humour aside, it’s not acceptable for some abuse to be ‘allowed’ and other abuse not.

ALL HATE-CRIMES are wrong, and that is what this vigil is about. Which brings me onto my 2nd point.

Disabled people.

There was a well-documented case recently of the tragedy of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francesca, about a mother and her disabled daughter. But on Tuesday on BBC1, there was a harrowing documentary called Tormented Lives, about a whole series of hate-crimes…faced by those with learning disabilities. !!! I actually want to say that those who perpetrate this must be beyond ignorant, just plain stupid, and realise that that sounds inappropriate. :-/ But really…you know what I mean. If you missed it, here’s the link for BBC iPlayer.

I’m against anyone being bullied, for any reason. Race, sexuality, creed, disability, whatever. I don’t need to preach, I know those reading this don’t need me to remind them why this Saturday is important. But those 2 incidents (the first one unfortunately unsurprising, the second one surprising that it was adults) reminded me why all must fight prejudice. Those kids who commit suicide did so in an environment where it’s ‘OK’ to be victimised, and with high-profile people like 50 Cent trivialising such issues, we must fight harder. Too many lives are being lost to murder and suicide.

Oh, by the way, I heard there won’t be any candles this year due to a health and safety rule, but people can bring their own! Time Out link for Candlelit Vigil Against Hate Crime