Denmark faces boycott over halal ban
By: OnIslam & Newspapers
Facing growing calls for boycott over its ban on halal slaughter, Denmark has attempted to play down growing criticism by Muslims around the world, confirming that the Islamic slaughter is still legal in the north Nordic European country.
“There is no ban on Islamic slaughter in Denmark,” the Danish Embassy in Riyadh was quoted by the Arab News on Monday, February 24.
“Animal sacrifice according to Islamic principles is still legal in Denmark.”
The controversy erupted earlier in February when Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen announced that Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter will be illegal in Denmark.
Muslims all over the world have opposed Denmark’s move to ban the slaughter of animals in an Islamic (halal) way.
The increasing condemnations were followed by calls by Muslims upon their governments to stop importing Danish meat as long as the Scandinavian country refuses to respect their religious teachings.
Joining debates surrounding the issue, Muslims asserted that halal way of slaughtering animals has been scientifically proved to be better for animals as well as humans than killing them by electric shock.
“Muslim countries must stop importing meat from Denmark as long as it prohibits Islamic way of slaughtering animals,” Fouad Tawfik, an Islamic scholar, said.
Dr. Zakir Naik, a respected propagator of Islam, emphasized that Islamic way is hygienic as it allows animal blood to be drained completely.
“Blood is a good medium for germs, bacteria and toxins that cause various diseases,” he pointed out.
The concept of halal, — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
In a bid to calm Muslims’ criticism, the Danish Embassy in Riyadh defended Copenhagen’s position.
“Unfortunately, the Danish government executive order has been portrayed and misinterpreted by the media, as if it was directed against the halal form of slaughter,” said Fikre El-Gourfti, deputy chief of the Danish mission.
He claimed that the current procedure of stunning an animal before slaughtering it “is in accordance with the resolution of the Islamic Fiqh Council of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL).
“It is important for the Danish government that Muslims can buy halal meat in Denmark,” he added.
Yet, Tawfik, the Muslim scholar, refuted the embassy’s statement, saying stunning of animals is not Islamic and MWL would not approve of such a religious edict.
“It’s the right of Danish Muslims to get halal food,” he said, advising Muslims to move to eat chicken and fish until they get halal meat.
Zaid Khan, a blogger, urged Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to import halal meat from Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia.
“The Danish decision should make us think in a proactive manner.”
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country’s 5.4 million population.
Religious leaders in Denmark say law changes to kosher and halal slaughter practices will not greatly affect their ways of life, despite international criticism about the change.
Denmark’s minister for agriculture, Dan Jorgensen, announced changes to religious slaughtering practices last week that now require animals to be stunned before they are killed.
Traditional halal and kosher practices require the animal to be conscious at the point of slaughter.
“Animal rights come before religion,” said Jorgensen on Danish television.
The change gained international attention, many on social media saying the change restricted religious freedom.
However Khalil Jaffar, an imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Copenhagen, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Danish Islamic leaders had issued a religious decree several years ago saying that animals stunned before slaughter were considered halal in Denmark
He said that the international attention had however prompted Muslims living in other countries to ask him about the change.
Finn Schwarz, the president of the Jewish Community Centre, also based in the capital, said the change would not affect Denmark’s small Jewish community because it imported its kosher meat.
However, Schwarz said that the Danish government had issued its directive in a “non-democratic” way.
“This has not changed the fact that we can still supply the Jewish population with kosher meat. The issue here is both the Muslim organisation and the Jewish community agree this has been pushed through in a non-democratic process in a quick way,” said Schwarz.
Jorgensen on Monday stressed that religious slaughter remained legal in the country.
“To eliminate all doubt, let me make it clear that slaughter according to Islamic precepts is still permitted in Denmark. This is not changing. It is important for the Danish government that everybody in Denmark can purchase meat slaughtered according to Islamic precepts without coming into conflict with their religious beliefs,” he said.