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But is it Halal?

Lucy Bushill-Matthews, whose biography I bungled while introducing her, at Islamic Relief’s  Sisters of the Deen event in Mayfair yesterday regaled the 500-strong audience with her typically witty observations of the idiosyncracies of Muslim life in South Africa. Her first brush with Muslim life in South Africa, she recalled,  was the conclusion of a meal at Nando’s. She was taken aback to see halal insignia proudly emblazoned, on the back of an unassuming wet-wipe. As far as South African Muslim life goes, much of it is spent lusting after a McDonalds happy meal while your conscience twists in agony over whether it really is halal. We are consumed with issues of halal and haraam when it pertains to how many insects’ legs were used to shine our chocolates yet we neglect to count how many feet we trample to climb the ladder of self-righteousness. And as the audience guffawed with laughter at Lucy’s joke, a backstage volunteer at the event, a recent convert to Islam, poked me in the ribs and asked me to explain what the joke was. And as I explained our penchant to stamp everything from toothpicks to a shoulder of lamb with halal, she looked at me exasperatedly and said, ‘But how else will we know what’s halal then?’

A post on Indigo Jo Blogs this morning responds to an article that appeared in that great standard for journalism, the British press, boldly informing the British public that entertainment venues like Wembley Stadium and Royal Ascot are serving halal meat. The article I take it, is meant to paint a picture of,  ‘Even the meat in our posh schools are halal, them Moslems are taking over!’ Without delving into the issue of stunning animals before slaughtering them, and how halal or haraam that is (which was the ostensible argument against halal meat) or speculating on whether our heavily meat-ridden diet is at all halaal, I’d like to point out instead that during the Fifa World Cup™ earlier this year, each stadium was equipped with a halal food kiosk, and though the very, very large contingent of local Muslims who formed substantial numbers at the stadiums complained bitterly about the standard of that halal food, we didn’t rate a headline.

allah-hu-taala het gesê innie koran

djulle moet djulle bekke hou
preek die imam innie smokkelhuis;
hoek me allah
djkr hy by die jintoe
wat net halaal kos iet

toe excommunicate die jamma hom.
maa’ allah ken mos betere
wan’ die man het hom mos geremember
ennie woord gespread tussen innie mense
en toe stuur allah hom straight heaven toe
met n’ borrel dop

Farouk Asvat

(allah the highest said in the qur’an
you must keep your mouth shut
the imam preaches in the shebeen
hook-me-allah
he chants at the harlot
who only eats halaal food.

so the community excommunicated him
but allah knows much better
because the man remembered him
and spread the word in-between the people.
and so allah sent him, straight to heaven
with a bottle of booze)

Translation by Mphutlane wa Bofelo

Our self-serving hypocrisies quite aside, it takes just a  mention of  ‘Majlis’, ‘Rainbow Chickens’ or more recently, ‘Woolworths croissants’ to a Muslim in Johannesburg to realise the severity of our problems with halal certification in South Africa. And these are problems that must be resolved within ourselves for the betterment (and sanity) of the community. Woolworths are not feeding us porcine lard in their croissants as part of an obscure  Zionist campaign.  And I assure you, when I first heard of the Woolworths  confectionery being ‘not halal‘ I was incensed because they appeared to be perfectly halal in Cape Town. It seemed to me that Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal air rendered it not precisely ‘haraam‘ but just, ‘not halal‘. I’ve spoken to the big people at Woolworths themselves since, speculating on how different a Cape Town recipe could be to a Pretoria one. My email to them was angry enough to induce their people to actually call me with a response instead of offering me lame platitudes over email. It turns out the factories preparing confectionery for Woolworths in regions besides the Western Cape can not guarantee that your croissants have not been mangled with pork or alcohol in the preparation process. While these factories have been requested to open facilities especially for Woolworths products that will be sanitised of any porcine or alcoholic influences, they are yet to comply. I was still skeptical but what finally swayed me was my interlocutor’s unlfinching honesty.  I asked him, if he as a Muslim (he had a Muslim sounding name and had offered me salaam)  and a Woolworths employee would eat those croissants should he find himself in Jo’burg. Without missing a beat he said he would not.

We cannot rely on the presence or absence of halal insignia at the expense of common sense.

15 replies on “But is it Halal?”

@5e128d0fb45a6dd2a8cebe6362aab3b5:disqus  Zuhayra….I would probably do the same and in fact I went and had unhalaal chicken when in Spain but that was because I was starving and didn’t think I could live on apples and chips for much longer. Islam allows for exceptions to the rule when the need arises. Eg if there are no halaal food places in  the area so then eating your salad or fish at the same restaurant that make ham sandwiches should be ok, but not when there are other options.I see nothing wrong with eating halaal food in a place that sells alcohol cause the food itself is halaal.
Anyways to each his own and let Islam be our conscience.

Hiya Khadija,
Very interesting article, The concept of Halal/kosher food is a great one for those who would like to live by their beliefs

However the problem is much larger, as this is a Minority, and discriminates against the majority.

Halal/Kosher food when produced is more expensive, and this cost has to be paid by every one, even if you are not Halal/kosher. Surely this cost when Producing food that is Halal/Kosher should be paid by those who wish to eat Halal/Kosher food, and not passed on to the majority.

I am neither Muslim or Jewish, and I have no problem eating all foods, which includes Halal Food. The problem I have is with the complete denial of choice, and that the Majority then pay more for a product that they should.

The majority cannot go into a Fast food Restaurant and get a non Halal/Kosher meal, is that acceptable ??

I cannot get a Bacon and Cheese Burger at, Nando’s, Mcdonalds, Kfc, Steers, I cannot get a Bacon and Cheese Pie any where, because all the Pies are Halal ??

Is that Acceptable that the Majority have no Choice, but to buy a Halal/kosher product and pay more for it, than they should ??

Surely there has to be a solution, of having fast food outlets having a a Halal section and a Non Halal section, and Companies producing food which would have to be clearly marked Halal/Kosher and Non Halal/Kosher food, and the extra cost then carried by those that wish to live by their beliefs

So that the Majority can have a choice.

i really enjoyed reading this article. the concept of halal eating once again illustrates muslims’ penchant for over-ritualisation. perhaps the halal construct was another way of conveying ethical lifestyle habits i.e. the ‘humane’ slaughter of animals. we are worried about insects being used to coat whispers (the ayat only prohibits the eating of pigs so i really don’t get this anyway) yet the inhumane slaughter of animals and battery chickens are deemed halal by certification bodies? something is rotten in the state of denmark.

We’re too militant about Halal in Jozi for Halal friendly to catch on yet but it’s only a matter of time.

And good on you bahisaheb, those are admirable ideals.

@Asief

That was very nice of your boss! Personally I think it’s great that restaurants are serving halal meat even though owing to their alcohol menu they can’t become halal certified. If they are willing to take pork off their menu and change their meat supplier, shouldn’t they be rewarded some credit? It’s not viable for most restaurants to stop serving alcohol.

I’ve been vegetarian for close on a decade so the whole halal meat thing hasn’t been an issue for me. Maybe I’m just a raging heathen but I’m happy to eat my salad a table away from a bottle of Savignon Blanc. If they went and rubbed my lettuce against a beer bottle or a hunk of ham in the kitchen, well, shame on them.

I do admire your stand point Mr Dhansay 🙂

With respect to the happenings in the UK, the debate was more about transparency and access to information than any implications of eating halal meat. I don’t think it’s ever unreasonable to want to be able to build an informed opinion. Very few took it as an indication of “Muslims taking over”, and only the insecure and defensive Muslims responded as if they were being attacked.

Anyway. A symbol shouldn’t be the be all and end all, but accurate info should always be strived for imo.

I have to agree, though I seriously think that in terms of halaal and haraam some self righteous people take it to different extremes.

Nicely put Kay, but I wonder at times if people also use halaal and haraam as a way of being closed minded?

Totally agree. The converse is also true, there are things we as muslims should not be eating if you consider where these funds go to, can we really call such foods halaal? But I probably shouldn’t start that debate here.

I don’t know about jozi, but here in cape town this new thing about “halaal friendly” is really getting out of hand. And the sad thing is it’s the muslims themselves perpetuating this haraam fad. Just today I explained to my boss that I wouldn’t attend our year-end lunch because the restaurant is halaal friendly but serves alcohol. She was totally accommodating and out of her own decided to switch the venue to a halaal restaurant, this is a white christian woman, the other muslims had no problem with going to this place.

Once again, great post Auntie-Jee.

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