We are advised by the Scriptures that there is “None so righteous as the newly converted.” That means that often when we have a transformational experience we are anxious to prove our piety–especially to those who oversaw our conversion–that we are indeed true believers, true practitioners. So we often exaggerate our behavior when we are new recruits–to a faith tradition, a political ideology, anything new.
I can remember when I was a new convert to Islam. One of my first behavior changes was in my diet. At the time I was a roommate with three members of the Black Panther Party, and unlike me, they did not care much about what they ate. On the other hand, I was all “kosher” all the time.
Funny thing though. My roommates would share the kosher meat products (such as hot-dogs) I would purchase, and then replace them with any old meat they picked up at the store. That was a constant source of frustration for me.
Since those days I have matured and mellowed in many ways. I still adhere to a “kosher” diet, although today as more and more Muslims have made their presence felt in this country, I now refer to that same dietary “law” as “halal.” The word “halal” in Arabic refers to that which is permitted, or acceptable, as opposed to that which is “haram,” or that which is forbidden. Think of the Sultan’s “harem” or his forbidden place.
I also now realize that it’s not such a good thing to eat any “dog,” hot or cold.
It is permissible for Muslims to eat kosher Jewish food, just as it is permissible for Jews to eat halal Islamic food. When it comes to meat, it refers to the method by which animals are slaughtered, as well as not contaminating it with the Divinely forbidden swine, pork, pig, The Hog.
A funny thing is going in this arena now in France. Unlike my former roommates who were happy to partake of items from my kosher/halal menu, the French are up in arms about the proliferation of halal meat being sold in their country.
The French are now engaged in an uncomfortable struggle over the place of Muslims in their society which is ostesnibly pledged to secularism but which is deeply rooted in Christianity, a xenophobic Christianity at that.
First there was a law to ban full-face Muslim veils. You know those Muslim women take that modesty thing way too far, the French must be thinking. The latest chapter in the drama has flared over the prospect that non-Muslims might unknowingly eat halal meat, or meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic tradition. Well, what right minded Frenchman would want something like that?
There are a number of urban and suburban areas in France where Muslims are now a majority and find it easy to live according to their traditions without seeking to integrate into French society. Think “gated community.” Think Mormons in Utah. Think the “Borscht Belt” Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, in Florida, in Los Angeles.
This French craze was triggered by a claim made by Marine Le Pen, a far, right-wing presidential candidate of the National Front. Think George Wallace, think Strom Thurmond, think David Duke, think Rick Santorum, think Donald Trump. Okay? Le Pen contends that all the meat consumed by Parisians is halal and that millions of French people are consuming halal meat without knowing it. Well, we can’t have that. Let’s mix a little hog maws in with that brisket. Let’s put some chitterlings in with those steaks.
What harm would come to any person who ate food that was prepared to a higher standard than the one to which that person is accustomed? It’s not like violating a halal/kosher diet with contamination from a pig. Muslims and Jews consider eating pork products to be a sin, not to mention unhealthy.
So, what’s the beef here? (Pun intended)
There is a concern that in some areas where Muslims are the majority they might take over a town council here and there and impose halal food on school cafeterias. That’s as if halal food would somehow be worse than the chemically doctored, lowest-comon-deonominator-slop that is now served in school cafeterias, as conniving administrators and the companies that provide school meals throw in everything they can come up with in order to cut the costs of meal preparation.
There’s a 90-year-old song from Broadway which says “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.”
Well, when it comes to the halal food-debate today, 50 million Frenchmen have got it all wrong, and there are some Muslim-haters in this country who are itching to follow them right into the same ditch.