Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Halal Hysteria

A January 27th article at the conservative World Net Daily website lashes out at halal food, or food that has been prepared in accordance with Islamic law. The article quotes Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries (a Washington-based Messianic Jewish ministry) as stating that because the name of Allah has been prayer over halal food, and Allah is supposedly an idol, halal food is unfit for Christian consumption. He cites Acts 15:20 and Acts 21:25 as Biblical justification for this view. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association weighs in as well, warning readers about food in UK public institutions that has been blessed in the name of the "demon-god" Allah.

This line of logic assumes that Allah is distinct from the Abrahamic god, which is incorrect. As an Abrahamic religion, Islam revers the same deity as Jews and Christians, as demonstrated by Quranic passages that identify Allah as the god of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus. (See Surah 2:133, 2:87, and 3:3 for examples.) Allah is simply the Arabic word for "god," rather than the title of a pagan deity. Thus, claims that halal foods are unfit for Christians because they have been consecrated to an "idol" are incorrect, rooted either in ignorance about Islam or in a wish to ostracize Islam from the ranks of the Abrahamic religions.

Unfortunately, antipathy toward halal food is nothing new. For instance, a January 9th article at CBN claims that some of the proceeds from halal food sales in France fund radical Islamic groups. Also, in late 2010, a group of anti-Muslim activists lambasted Campbells for distributing halal soup in Canada, according to Right Wing Watch and Talking Points Memo. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were among those criticizing Campbells. Additionally, in fall 2010, a London-based group called Christian Concern launched a petition against halal meat. On their website, the group argued against the widespread sale of halal products in the UK because of its alleged role in "Islamisation" of British society. In short, Biltz' scriptural argument is merely the latest in a long line of accusations against halal products.

In my opinion, conservative Christian hostility toward halal food is rooted in misunderstandings about Islam, as well as fear and distrust of Muslims. Condemnation of halal products seems to be more about ostracizing Muslims as "other" than anything else, which serves as a reminder that interfaith dialogue still has a long way to go.

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