I have been wanting to write an article on the issue of eating Halal food for a long time but haven't really gotten around to doing it. However, recently Pastorius posted an excerpt from an article that was published on Jihad Watch. I was really happy that someone else had written an article about this whole thing and so I wouldn't have to do it. But then Epa commented and my hopes of being lazy were shattered. Pastorius summarized Epa's comment as follows:
"Who gives a crap? It's only food."
However, this is what Epa actually said:
“Halal OR Kosher for that fact are manifestations of 'what you have to do to safely eat meat/fish in a low/no tech desert or warm environment'”
Well, he said more (you can follow the link and read the whole thing) but this is what prompted me to pick up my pen (keyboard) and start writing this lengthy article.
I will first deal with whether Halal food is just like Kosher, a way for us to eat safe, clean food in a desert or warm environment or is it a ritualistic way of slaughtering meat in Islam, hence “food sacrificed to idols”, in the section “HALAL MEAT: ISLAM'S WAY OF SACRIFICING FOOD TO AN IDOL”. Then I will deal with whether Christians and Jews are to eat food sacrificed to idols or not in the section “BIBLICAL REASONS FOR NOT EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS”. And lastly, I will deal with why people in the West should boycott Halal meat for political purposes and not just for religious in the section “POLITICAL REASONS FOR BOYCOTTING HALAL MEAT ALONG WITH ANY OTHER PRODUCT PRODUCED IN ISLAM OR BY MUSLIMS”. Let us begin!
HALAL MEAT: ISLAM'S WAY OF SACRIFICING FOOD TO AN IDOL
This section should not take me long. The only thing I want to address here is Epa's comment. I am proposing that Halal is not just a way to eat clean meat (fish does not have to go through any religious sacrifice or prayer, Muslims can eat it right out of the water) but an offer and a thanks to Allah for providing the meat. Here is what the process entails.
Apart from making sure that the animal (or bird) has no blemishes and your knife is sharp, you have to lay down the animal and make sure it faces Makkah (Mecca). Then you have to say “Bismillah-e-Allah-u-akbar”, which means, literally, “In the name of Allah, Allah is greater”. And that's when you make a sharp cut in the animal's throat (without severing it completely) and let the blood drain. That completes the slaughtering part. Then you skin it and cook it, just like anybody else would do.
This sacrifice is Haram (not acceptable) if it is not done properly: if there was a blemish in the animal, if the animal didn't face Mecca, if Allah’s name was not recited and if the whole procedure was done by someone who is not a pious Muslim (a pious Muslim is one who offers prayers to Allah 5 times a day, pays Zaka', fasts during Ramadan, goes for Hajj at least once in his lifetime if he has the means to do so and most importantly, says the Shahadah, that is, “La-ilaha-ilAllah-e-Muhammad-ur-Rasul-Allah”, which means, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet/apostle/messenger).
What concerns me is not the facing of Mecca (as to me that is a joke), neither the blemishes (because I would rather eat an animal without any blemishes than one with some) but the part about invoking the name of Allah and it is that part that the Quran specifically tells Muslims to follow. Rest of it has been added through the Hadiths and later traditions (as far I know).
The Quran talks about invoking Allah's name in the following ways.
Sura 5. Verse 4: They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food): say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah; eat what they catch for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account.
This is the stuff that matters the most to me. I can not, and I will not, eat anything that is sacrificed in the name of an idol and Allah is nothing other than an old Meccan idol, there is no doubt about that.
This concludes the discussion about whether Halal (which just means “acceptable”) meat has been sacrificed to an idol, namely Allah, or not. To me the above verses leave no doubt about it at all. I am sorry Epa but this does not sound to me like a way to keep meat clean in the desert climate of the Middle East.
Now onto Biblical reasons as to why we shouldn't eat meat sacrificed to idols.
BIBLICAL REASONS FOR NOT EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS
I have been avoiding food sacrificed to idols for the last couple of years now. My primary reason for not eating food sacrificed to idols is simple: Biblical. However, my secondary reason is political. So this discussion should cater to both Christians/Jews and atheists/agnostics/theists. I will first start with the religious significances.
I know there is always a lot of debate amongst Christians whether this rule applies to us in this modern day and age. Many actually don't even think that there is any religion any more that sacrifices food to its god/gods so there isn't any food out there that can be labeled as “food-sacrificed-to-idols”. If we, as Christians, are ever to venture into the matter of idolatry committed through food that is sacrificed to idols, we should ask what the Bible has to say about it.
I am going to start with Paul, who is everyone's favorite when it comes to food sacrificed to idols. Before I begin, however, I just want to say that I have my reservations about Paul. Where sometimes he sounds like the smartest guy in the world, at other times he sounds like someone that has no idea at all what God said about a certain issue (I realize that it is quite possible that I have misunderstood Paul here, but so far I haven't heard a plausible argument to prove my misunderstanding). One of those issues is food sacrificed to idols.
Let's see what he has to say:
1 Corinthians 8:1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God. 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
I highlighted the things that I think are related to the discussion at hand. (I just have a side-question: What the heck were the believers doing in an idol's temple in the first place?) Where I disagree with Paul is this. It is God who cares about food sacrificed to idols, it is not about someone's sensibilities. Read the following:
Deuteronomy 32: 15 But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
Revelation 2: 13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead.
Now, as far as idols being no gods but demons or nothing, I agree with Paul as that is what God seems to be saying too. However, where I don't agree with him is when he seemingly makes it all sound like, “we should care about idols only in case someone is offended by it”, as if that was the only thing that mattered here, which, as we have seen above, is clearly not the case. So, either Paul is wrong here or he is just misunderstood; I am hoping it is the latter (I would really appreciate plausible explanations to this passage in case I am wrong). Now that I have made my viewpoint on this popular passage from Paul clear (hopefully), let us see what the Church was told about food sacrificed to idols (apart from the verses from Revelation).
Acts 15: 22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: "The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
As we can see clearly, the Apostles didn't think it was their decision, rather that it was from the Holy Spirit. Another reference goes as follows:
Acts 21: 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
I don't know whether what I have pasted here is sufficient evidence for it or not but it is enough for me to be convinced that I am to stay away from food sacrificed to idols.
My case stands more for the Christians. The reason there isn't a lot on food sacrificed to idols in the Tanakh is that the Israelites were told not to even deal with the idolaters around them. In fact, they were told to annihilate them once they conquered their land to avoid any idolatry within Israel. They weren’t even allowed to speak out the name of any other god.
This is it for the religious part of this discussion. I will post the section “POLITICAL REASONS FOR BOYCOTTING HALAL MEAT ALONGWITH ANY OTHER PRODUCT PRODUCED IN ISLAM OR BY MUSLIMS” later as this is already getting way too long for a blog post.