Skip to content

Allah In the Suburbs

 

COSTCO, the big-box retailer that is as much a fixture of American suburbia as the white-steepled church was of Puritan New England, has announced it will begin selling Muslim halal family-size entrées, or food that has been prepared according to Islamic law. This, and Costco’s other halal products, just might be the most significant overture to Islam in America yet. (And I’m not joking.) Without anyone in the mainstream taking note of it, a major retailer has begun over the last two years selling foods prepared in Islamic rituals. Saffron Road is a purveyor of halal frozen foods, including chicken nuggets and lamb vindaloo. Costco will start with its Chicken Tikka Masala. The chief executive of Saffron Road, Adnan A. Durrani, has sent a message to American Muslims:

We deeply need the support of you, your families and communities.  Let’s show Costco that there’s an educated, progressive, and dedicated American Muslim community by demonstrating our buying power to Costco via purchasing Halal products in their stores.

Halal meats must come, as Wikipedia explains, from ”animals … slaughtered in the name of Allah (enunciating this blessing at the point the animal yields its life is the single most important aspect of halal meat).”

What grounds do most Americans have for objecting to Costco’s venture? None.

That’s because most Americans think that because many Muslims are nice, decent and good people, Islam itself must be only nice, decent and good. They believe they would be hateful and sick to refuse to accommodate Islamic law in their own country.

This thinking is disastrously wrong.

—– Comments —–

Lila-Jean Awsumb writes:

I don’t know if Costco sells kosher meats, but if it did, would you object on the same grounds, that Costco should not accommodate the Mosaic law? Costco sells products made by companies that are run by atheist, abortion supporters, sodomy promoters, etc. Isn’t this accommodation far more objectionable? What about all of the hundreds of natural, organic and health food products that promote the New Age, goddesses, witchcraft, astrology, and other pernicious superstitions?

One of the grocery stores in my area sells religious candles with picures of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I hope that protestants, Jews, Moslims, pagans and atheist do not use your logic to object to grocers accommodating Catholic sentiments.

Are you suggesting that halal meat is bad for you because it might be cursed by the invocation of Allah? (Allah is the name Muslims use for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)

Chicken tikka masala is one of my favorite dishes and I enjoy it whenever I can at a wonderful Indian restaurant. I assure you, I have never gotten sick from it nor have I thought of converting to Hinduism. By the way, the restaurant owner, the cooks and his entire serving staff very nice, decent and good.

Most of the meat (and food) we consume is laced with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. It may be genetically engineered. It is raised, slaughtered, transported, packaged, sold, resold, prepared by individuals who may not be nice, decent or good—some of them may even be really nasty, gross and evil. Shall we become vegetarians, vegans or anorexics?

Isn’t the best and only safe way to approach food and the market place is to ask God’s blessings, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

I was referred to your website by other thinking. I am sure you are nice, decent and good, as am I, yet I was disappointed with your incomplete thinking process.

Laura writes:

No, I don’t object to Kosher food being sold because nowhere in the world do Jews kill, imprison or silence people for blaspheming their God. New Age religions are openly promoted by many merchandisers, but these diffuse beliefs do not possess the organized political power or legal codes of Islam, except in the form of liberalism, which I resist all the time. (I would object to merchandise that was Satanic in nature.)

Are you suggesting that halal meat is bad for you because it might be cursed by the invocation of Allah? (Allah is the name Muslims use for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)

No, that was not my point and is an entirely different issue. My point was that Islam is bad for this country and while no Muslim should ever be persecuted, Muslims should practice their religion in their own countries, where they do a fine job, by the way, of banning the open practice of other religions. In Saudi Arabia, one cannot buy a crucifix or a Bible and it’s a crime to own them. Christians are arrested and lashed in public. Let Islam flourish there, not here.

Most of the meat (and food) we consume is laced with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. It may be genetically engineered. It is raised, slaughtered, transported, packaged, sold, resold, prepared by individuals who may not be nice, decent or good—some of them may even be really nasty, gross and evil. Shall we become vegetarians, vegans or anorexics?

Vegans and anorexics do not kill infidels, and are not commanded to kill infidels by a prophet or sacred scriptures.

Isn’t the best and only safe way to approach food and the market place is to ask God’s blessings, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

No, this is not the only way to approach the market. We should protest to Costco so that someday we do not live in a country where people are silenced or even killed for disrespecting Halal food or Islamic law.

Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:

Lila-Jean Awsumb wants to know, “are you suggesting that halal meat is bad for you because it might be cursed by the invocation of Allah?” You reply, “No, that was not my point and is an entirely different issue.” I understand why this denial was rhetorically necessary, but I would urge you reconsider the point. I would say that halal meat is, in a manner of speaking, “cursed by the invocation of Allah.” How so?

Halal slaughter is objectionable not only because it inflicts cruel pain on the animal, which dies by bleeding out slowly from a puncture in the jugular vein, but also because it exhibits the features of ritual sacrifice, not least in the verbal dedication of the corpse to Allah when the butcher believes that the beast is about to give up its ghost. Please remark that it is not my contention that halal meat has acquired a wicked, magical taint or that it has been changed somehow at the molecular level. I do not believe in Allah; I do not believe in the magical efficacy of charms and incantations. I contend that halal meat is the symbolic product of one of the many sacrificial rituals characteristic of Islam that differentiate it from Christianity and the other higher religions – and because symbols have a meaning, and because although magic is false meaning is real, I do not wish to participate in any of the symbols of a ritually sacrificial dispensation. By analogy, I would not adopt the swastika as an ornament on my person or my house because the swastika symbolizes something evil (indeed, sacrificial) in which I would not voluntarily participate. I would not patronize a business that adopted the swastika as an ornament, even if, say, it were a gift-shop run by one of Native American tribes whose iconography included the broken cross, and even if it were a reverse swastika. Similarly, if I knew that meat being sold by Costco was raised, slaughtered, and packed by slaves, I would not wish to purchase it, nor eat it; and I would not wish to bring my custom to an establishment that purveyed it.

In the old myth, Atreus avenged himself on his rival Thyestes by tricking Thyestes into eating a meal cooked from the murdered corpse of Thyestes’ son Pelops. The insinuation of halal meat into the American menu resembles that ancient, nefarious act. It is not merely objectionable; it is intolerable.

 Laura writes:

I entirely agree. There are spiritual ramifications of eating halal food. When I said, “No, that was not my point and is an entirely different issue,” I did not mean I rejected that argument but that it was not what I had in mind as to why someone would protest to Costco.

These words of Mr. Bertonneau are especially worth repeating:

Please remark that it is not my contention that halal meat has acquired a wicked, magical taint or that it has been changed somehow at the molecular level. I do not believe in Allah; I do not believe in the magical efficacy of charms and incantations. I contend that halal meat is the symbolic product of one of the many sacrificial rituals characteristic of Islam that differentiate it from Christianity and the other higher religions – and because symbols have a meaning, and because although magic is false meaning is real, I do not wish to participate in any of the symbols of a ritually sacrificial dispensation.

Jane writes:

Chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo are Indian dishes. Not Muslim. If Costco wants to offer spicy dishes in their frozen food section, I’m all for it. If Costco wants to show off its progressivist bona fides, they could at least get it straight whose cuisine belongs to whom.

Laura writes:

I assume there is a market for Indian halal food, especially among Pakistanis. Otherwise Saffron Road would not be selling it.

Laura writes:

Costco sells other halal products too. Here is a 2011 post from Harry Rhoades at his blog:

I did some shopping at Costco on Saturday. Nothing too special, just looking to pick up some meat to BBQ. My eldest son was down with his fiancée from Iowa , so we wanted to have some family time. My wife and I worked our way past the various displays and only picked up an ice chest To keep the meat from spoiling on the return trip to Magdalena , (we were strong willed for a change). We arrived at the refrigerated section and began the difficult task of choosing our cuts of meat for the family get together. Right away, I spotted the chicken breasts, they were already boneless and vacuum sealed. The price was good as it was organic chicken from Oregon , but then I saw on the sign a note that stopped me cold.

The whole chickens that looked wonderful for the family bar-b-que, just a moment before, were now an offense to me. Right on the sign were the words “Certified Halal.”

Halal is the Islamic term that basically means the meat is lawful to eat for a devout Muslim. What makes it lawful or acceptable is that the meat has been processed in a very specific way. Now, you may think that this is no different than meat that is acceptable to the Jewish people or kosher. Unlike kosher food, where the physical processing of the meat is the focus, for Islam it is the spiritual component that makes the meat lawful.

For lawful (halal) meat in Islam, the animal must be killed while the butcher faces Mecca, and either the butcher cries “Allah Akbar” or a tape plays the words over a loud speaker. Understand, that when they face Mecca , they face the black stone, the very definition of idol worship. [Laura writes: I don't think this is an entirely accurate description of halal butchering.]

I am glad that Costco is finally telling us plainly that the meat is halal or sacrificed to an idol, but I have a feeling that this not to benefit the Christian, but rather the Muslim. I will state again that I have not fear of a lifeless false god, but the book of Acts plainly tells us that we are not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The false religion of Islam continues to make inroads into America as they attempt to force some of our communities to submit to Sharia law and demand that halal food be sold in mainstream stores.

I would point out that normally this type of food has been called “ ethnic” food or given a special section like the Chinese food or whatever. That is not what we see here. This food is being sold with the standard fair, and one must read the small labels on the back of the food to find out if it is halal or not.

I believe in freedom of religion. What I am starting to observe, however, is that one religion (currently the minority) is being given a wide berth and allowed special status. Those that know their Bible are not surprised by this. But it still amazes me that it can (as the Bible predicted) happen so suddenly and without anyone really taking notice.

You should know this the next time you are in Costco.

Jane S. writes:

I’d stake my life that Pakistanis will not buy this food. That’s not what this marketing campaign is for. Costco is trying to flaunt their cultural sensitivity, but they are going about it in a way that is ignorant and lazy.

I’ve been part of a Hindu tribe for two decades, during which time I’ve observed that Westerners are fond of adopting this or that aspect of Hindu culture because they think it makes them look cool, but they don’t bother learning anything meaningful about the culture, and they wind up looking trite and silly. Without realizing it. This halal gimmick that Costco has going is a perfect example of that.
.
Indians are proud of their cuisine, and rightfully so. Everything is prepared by sister-in-law using fresh ingredients, with the perfect blend of spices. The idea of frozen food is alien to them. Chicken tikka masala is Anglicized version of Indian food. It’s Indian in exactly the same way chop suey is Chinese, or pizza is Italian.
.
It’s ubiquitous on Indian restaurant menus because that’s what they expect Westerners to like. Lamb vindaloo is Portuguese in origin. That’s why Costco chose them. Not because they want to meet their Muslim customers’ demands for halal foods. Muslims will not buy these products–I’ll say that again. These products are for Westerners who want to pretend they are having a multicultural experience. They are for Westerners who like to pretend they know a little bit about other cultures, but not really.

Laura writes:

Costco may not be consciously seeking Muslim customers with this particular product. The customers for Saffron Road may overwhelmingly be non-Muslims. I don’t know, but that seems to me beside the point. It is halal food and the CEO of Saffron Road is making public statements to Muslims urging them to support this product. Costco supports and promotes Islam, whether it’s laziness or ignorance or conscious outreach to Muslims that is behind this particular line of products.

Ibitsaam writes:

Muslims are permitted to eat Kosher, because it is also ‘offered’ in the name of Allah (Arabic word for God, also in Arab Christians’ Bibles), the same God of Prophets Abraham, Moses, Solomon, David etc.. and bled out. However, Kosher rules are stricter than halaal, and therefore a bit limiting, especially in curries which typically mix milk and meat.

Ian M. writes:

I wondered if Thomas Bertonneau (or you) would address this question: why would he refrain from buying halal meat on account of it being sacrificed to Allah when St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians that eating meat sacrificed to idols is not wrong? (Provided your brother is not weak in the faith).

A second question I have is how is kosher different from halal in this respect? Harry Rhoades says that with kosher, it is the physical processing of the meat that is the focus rather than the spiritual component. However, one of your other correspondents, Ibitsaam, claims that Kosher food is also offered in the name of God, which suggests a spiritual component. I’d be interested in some clarification regarding the distinction between kosher and halal.

I agree on the overall theme of halal meat being objectionable, but on these two questions I am not persuaded yet.

 Laura writes:

Note that Mr. Bertonneau did not say that eating halal meat is sinful. He said he does not wish to participate in the symb0lic act of Islamic ritualistic slaughter, and given that there are many choices, he doesn’t need to. With regard to Paul’s words, there is a legitimate concern of tempting the weak. Are we not surrounded by the weak?

In buying halal meat, we encourage purveyors to adapt to Islamic custom; place Christians working or operating slaughterhouses in close participation with these practices and indirectly encourage the practice of Islam.  I recommend this article from The Brussels Journal by Tiberge of Galliawatch, who reports on France, where halal food is now everywhere. She quotes an article in the French press:

The explosion of the demand for halal products is more proof, not of a successful integration into French society of Arabo-Muslim populations, but, rather of the return to the practices of the home country. But this re-rooting is not without problems: Like the Ramadan fast, the promotion of halal foods is no longer confined to the private sphere; rather it is extending into the public space, for two reasons: commercial interests and political pressures. [emphasis added]

In an effort to make halal production profitable, producers are tempted to make everyone eat halal. Halal slaughterhouses must fulfill the following rules: the animal must be slit open while alive, without stunning, its head turned toward Mecca, by a certified practitioner. In order to avoid the added expense of two separate methods of slaughter (halal and “classic”) it is often easier to distribute halal meats in the “classic” market, without warning the consumer. This is widely practiced for poultry and lamb: the secular or Catholic consumer thus is financing, unknowingly and unwillingly, the spread of Islam in France.

In the logic of the business world, prepared dishes also must be halal: many companies such as Maggi, are eliminating pork and alcohol from their preparations and are providing only halal meats. And so, it is the most intolerant faction that is dictating its law, first to merchants, then to customers. Likewise, in collective restaurants, such as those found in schools, the rules of the minority are imposed on the majority.

Municipalities subject to growing pressures from Muslim associations now provide almost systematically a menu without pork. Secular ["laïc"] groups rebel against what they are calling the apartheid of food that results in discrimination in the schools between the “without pork” and the “pork”. The latter are often labeled as “impure” in the schoolyards at recess time. This phenomenon is massive – a Google search on “school cafeterias without pork” turned up more than 100,000 sites.

Islamic rules are truly privileged. The municipality of Grenoble has stated that in its schools “no dietary regimen other than meals without pork can be offered.” Lyons has gone even further. Along with its classic menus, it offers a vegetarian menu on grounds that one third of the pupils refuse the main meal, even without pork, because the meat served is not guaranteed to be halal.

In the region of Ile-de-France another line has been crossed. Siresco, an inter-county union serving largely Communist cities, that delivers 35,000 meals per day, has banned the word “pork” from its website and from the meals it delivers in certain towns, such as Tremblay-en-France. In Tremblay, the municipality is under intense pressure to make all school meals halal, a pressure that is being challenged by Regards de Femmes, a “laïque” and feminist association.

And in the Lavoisier vocational high school of Roubaix, “everybody eats halal in the cafeteria, including non-Muslims. It was easier to adopt this ritual preparation of meat that the other faiths can tolerate.”

This solution is presented as a symbol of consensus and above all as a bonus to those who are the most intolerant!

As far as I see it, all of this corresponds with what St. Paul referred to as temptation of the weak. Here is an intelligent webpage written from a Protestant perspective on biblical teachings on eating meat sacrificed to idols. I have been unable to find any authoritative Catholic statement and any recent Catholic statements would have to be carefully examined in light of historic teachings.

Paul does say that meat sacrificed to idols can be eaten, but he warns against setting an example.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge (1Cor 8:9-11).

There are also conflicting admonitions in the Bible, examined in the article above.

Mr. Bertonneau writes:

Not only St. Paul, but also many of the Church Fathers, wrote about the moral status of meat sacrificed to the gods. Augustine comments on it and so, I believe, does Clement of Alexandria. In the pagan order of Greco-Roman Classical Civilization, a major source of protein for the poor was meat distributed by the priests in the aftermath of sacrifice to one or another of the plural deities. It was a question of necessity for the impoverished, including poor Christians. Some Christians did disdain such food. Neither St. Paul nor any of the later writers said that this was wrong. Augustine says that it is, of course, better not to eat such food.

I no more believe in Apollo or Diana than I believe in Allah, but if I had to choose a god other than the Biblical God, I would nod to Apollo or Diana, but never to Allah, whose character is despotic and terroristic. Nevertheless, I prefer to live under a non-sacrificial dispensation.

As for kosher, it is my understanding that one of the precepts of kosher butchery is that the slaughtered animal should suffer as little as possible. (I stand open to correction.) There is no indication in any of the material that I have accessed concerning halal butchery of any similar precept. That is a morally qualitative high difference between kosher and halal. I can imagine ordinary circumstances in which I would eat a kosher meal, something that I have done two or three times in my life. I cannot imagine ordinary circumstances in which I would knowingly eat halal meat.

Mr. Bertonneau adds:

It was not only Christians who, in Late Antiquity, objected to animal sacrifices and the consumption of sacrificial meat. Many pagans shared the Christian aversion to blood offerings and refused to eat food from the altar. The Orphics belonged to this persuasion, as did the Platonists and their philosophical opposite numbers the Epicureans.

Ibitsaam writes:

Mr. Bertonneau wrote, “it is my understanding that one of the precepts of kosher butchery is that the slaughtered animal should suffer as little as possible.”

Islam has the same considerations – it is specified (as in Judaism) that the knife used be ‘razor-sharp’ in order to inflict instantaneous death, so as to cause as little stress and pain to the animal as possible. It is even forbidden to sharpen a knife in view of the animal to be slaughtered, so as not to cause anguish. Slaughtering must also not be conducted in front of the other animals, lest they get scared.

Hunting for animals as sport is also clearly forbidden and a cursed activity.

Share:EmailFacebook0Twitter1Pinterest0Google+0