Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sikhs, Don't be Swayed by the Anti-Halal Meat Sikh Preachers (Response to Basics of Sikhi)

I don't know if this stance against Halal meat is emanating from Muslim-Sikh tensions from years back in India/Pakistan but let's put some scrutiny on this. A preacher who runs the Basics of Sikhi movement has been caught presenting anti-Muslim propaganda to prop up this idea that Sikhs cannot eat Halal meat and should not even go to establishments which sell it (I guess he has something against Tescos, Sainsburys and Waitrose as all of them sell Halal and/or Kosher meat.

It's interesting this Sikh preacher does not mention anything about Kosher meat, which is slaughtered in a similar way to Halal meat. Why is it only Halal meat?

Also why is he not talking about not going to places which sell alcohol (never mind consume alcohol) as alcohol is something which leads to untold misery, where's the consistency? This again leads me to think this is something motivated by Muslim-Sikh tensions of the past rather than something sanctioned by a sincere person.

One thing I found puzzling was this man's appeal to 'compassion' and his insistence that Halal meat is 'behreham' yet he was part of a gang which along with its allies killed 1000s of people in painful and shameful ways. Not to mention the bombings of innocent families. That's what is behreham.

This preacher needs to get his head straight.

What's more, is it even established that a Guru prohibited Halal meat or was it the Rehit which was composed in 1931?

The video runs through his arguments and corrects him using a number of sources including a recording of rabbi Pinchas Taylor.

If this video does not play please see:

What is Halal or Kosher Meat?

Halal and Kosher meat is ritually-slaughtered meat according to Islamic and Judaic religious principles, respectively. There are many similarities between Halal and Kosher Meat. For meat to be lawful for Muslim or Jewish consumption:

* The animal must be healthy and not diseased
* The animal must be free from injury or defect
* A prayer is said before the slaughter
* It must be performed by a competent individual with a surgically sharp knife and not by machine
* The slaughter involves a single quick incision to the neck, cleanly cutting the jugular vein
* The blood must be fully drained from the carcass of the animal
* There are requirements for cleanliness, sanitation, and purity

Many adherents to this practice contend that the advantage of this method is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood which keeps the meat fresh and free from impurities. They also consider this method to be the least painful and humane method of slaughter for the animal, causing unconsciousness within a couple of seconds

What is Islam’s viewpoint on animal welfare?

Under Islamic guidelines, as with Judaic, any undue pain for the animal must be avoided. It is forbidden to treat an animal cruelly during its lifetime or during the slaughter. If the animal is killed by a blow, strangling, electric shock or drowning in water, its meat is not considered permissible.
Islamic practices dictate that the animal is not allowed to be put down in view of other animals neither is the knife to be openly shown to the animal to be slaughtered. This would cause the animals distress and is not best practice.

Although the slaughter of animals is allowed for food consumption, it is strictly forbidden for sport or enjoyment. The Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) often chastised people for the mistreatment of animal and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness. [iERA]

For further information on Halal meat see Why do Muslims eat Halal meat?

And here is a foum post which may be of interest to Sikhs by user called Brooklynwala:

Like many Sikhs, I grew up eating meat.� It was something I never really questioned until I was in college and started learning more about the treatment of animals on factory farms and the environmental impact of the meat industry.

I never understood what halal truly meant, but the message I got from my parents and others in the community went something like this:� Halal is the way Muslims slaughter animals, and it involves killing the animal slowly and painfully.� And lots of gushing blood.� We Sikhs don�t believe in torturing animals, so we don�t eat halal meat.� Sound like a familiar story line?

This, of course, contributed to my perception of Muslims as barbaric people who were dirty, had multiple wives and questionable morals, and killed my ancestors during partition.� In the context of the messages I received from family and community growing up, the story about halal fit right in � yet another way Muslims are backwards. As is abundantly clear in my writing on this blog, this is in stark contrast to how I see Islam and the Muslim community at this point in my life.�

But I grew up with these messages and stereotypes just like most of my Sikh peers did. Really, what�s all the fuss about halal?� Why aren�t Sikhs supposed to eat halal meat? Section Six of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct) states: The undermentioned four�transgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided: 1. Dishonouring the hair; 2. Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way; 3. Cohabiting with a person other than one’s spouse; 4. Using tobacco. The most common argument I usually hear to explain the halal ban is simply that the Rehat Maryada says so.� No disrespect to the Rehat Maryada or the (attempted) consensus-based process through which it was created in the first half of the 20th Century, but this is not a sufficient reason in and of itself.� If the lives our Gurus have taught me anything, it is to think critically, question everything I�m told, and to always keep the love of Waheguru in my heart.�

So an argument based solely on citation of the Rehat Maryada (which our Gurus were not involved in writing) is not convincing to me. Another common argument I hear is the aforementioned animal welfare argument:� that slaughtering the Muslim way is unnecessarily painful for the animal�it�s a slow death and a form of torture.� With jathka meat, on the other hand, the animal is killed swiftly, experiencing minimal pain. Scientific research reveals a more complicated reality, however.� A 1978 German study found that halal slaughtering actually caused less pain to calves and sheep than slaughtering after the animals were stunned by a captive bolt (the industry standard).� A more recent New Zealand study, on the other hand, found that stunning reduces the pain of the slaughter.� However, according to a study cited by the Guardian last year, �90% of animals killed for halal food in 2004 were stunned first.

As in mainstream food production, the animal’s throat is then cut.� So this supposedly sinister method, it seems, is not that different after all.� Research studies aside, the intention of halal (and for Jews, kosher) slaughtering is to minimize pain and suffering to the animal.� The Guardian states: The definition of halal is anything that is legal or lawful for Muslims. In terms of meat, this can apply to what kind of animal is used (not pigs, for instance) and the way they are killed: an animal must be healthy, the butcher must make a recitation dedicating it to God, and the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe are cut with a single swipe from a sharp knife. As with kosher meat, the idea is that the animal dies immediately and the blood drains away. [my emphasis] And in fact, if the animal is not killed immediately with a single swipe, it is not considered halal.

Thus, not eating halal because of our concern for animal welfare simply doesn�t make sense.� If this was our primary concern in our food choices as a community, then I would argue we should talk about a Sikh prohibition of all factory-farmed meats, eggs, and dairy products.� Animals on factory farms (or the official term, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs) live in grotesquely unnatural, overcrowded conditions, never seeing the sun or grazing in the grass.� Pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics, these animals are treated simply as units of production rather than living beings.� There is nothing respectful or humane about the treatment of animals on factory farms, so why are we so concerned about halal and not worried about the cows that become our Big Mac or produce the milk in our cha?

A final explanation of the Sikh ban on halal meat I have often heard is we should not partake in the ritual or sacrificial killing of an animal.� Of course, we Sikhs are not proponents of ritual for the sake of ritual: jaalo aisee reeth jith mai piaaraa veesarai || Burn away those rituals which lead you to forget the Beloved Lord. naanak saaee bhalee pareeth jith saahib saethee path rehai ||2|| O Nanak, sublime is that love, which preserves my honor with my Lord Master. | (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 590) But talk to a devout Muslim or Jew about halal or kosher, and you�ll likely find that they think of their respective religion�s practice of killing an animal as a necessary means to show respect to the animal and to God, since the animal is a creation of God.� Is saying a prayer and remembering God while ending the life of a living being for the purposes of eating a blind ritual?� Even if we don�t see it as a necessary step for our own religious practice as Sikhs, I would argue that it is not fundamentally contrary to the Sikh way of life.
But growing up I never thought about where my spicy deep-fried chicken strips were coming from.� Or the living (and dying) conditions of the cow that made up the thinly sliced pieces of meat in my Arby�s roast beef sandwich.� As long is it wasn�t halal, it was all good Yes, I am raising questions and concerns about a guidelines set forth in the Rehat Maryada, and perhaps some readers will take issue with that.� But over sixty years after our code of conduct was officially approved by the Panth, don�t we owe it to ourselves as a community to continually look inward and ask questions about where we are and where we are going? From my own observations about the Sikh prohibition of halal meat, it does little to protect the well-being and humane treatment of animals and even less to get us closer to Waheguru.� Instead, the prohibition of halal meat spreads misinformation and perpetuates stereotypical and demeaning attitudes about Islam and the Muslim community.�

While I have heard some say the prohibition is not about halal specifically, but about any sacrificial meat, the Rehat Maryada explicitly singles out �an animal slaughtered the Muslim way.�� Rarely do I hear any talk of kosher meat being taboo for Sikhs. At the heart of Sikhi is Ik Onkar � One Divine Light that shines in all human beings.� Waheguru connects us all.� Guru Gobind Singh was always clear that the Khalsa�s war was never against Muslim people or Islam, but it was against tyranny, which at the time was epitomized by Aurangzeb’s empire.� Sadly, many in the contemporary Sikh community � maybe even a majority � have taken home a different message which they have taught to their kids, and their kids taught to their kids, and so on.

For those who argue Guru Nanak banned Halal meat this could be of interest to them:

There is no mention of the prohibition of Halal for Sikhs, either in Guru Granth Sahib or in the Bani of Guru Gobind Singh according to my knowledge. However, the taboo of Halal for the Khalsa is found in the Rehit Namas, which were written by others long after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. These Rehit Namas have been used in drawing up the current Rehit Maryada (code of conduct) for the Sikhs. Sardar Piara Singh Padam has compiled fifteen Rehit Namas in a book form with his critique as a foreword. Every Sikh should read this book to understand the motives of the authors of the Rehit Namas. Some of the contents of the Rehit Namas are spurious, inconsistent with Gurbani, and unflattering to the Khalsa. Those who interpret Guru Nanak's hymn (abhakhya ka kutha bakra khanha, eating the meat of a male goat slaughtered in a Halal manner) as condemnation of eating Halal, should read his commentary on the behavior of Khatries of his time in Asa Di Var, on page 471 of Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak did not condemn the partaking of Halal meat, rather he condemned the hypocrisy of the Khatries. The Khatries had abdicated their religious duties of defending their country and the weak, and taking a resolute stand against tyranny and injustice. Furthermore, the subjugated Khatries had adopted the language, manners and dress of their Muslim conquerors whom they called malech (polluted ones). Some of them sought employment with the Muslim conquers, and some of them held high ranks, and were responsible for the persecution of the Hindu masses. However, these Khatries were very strict and rigid in the practice of caste system and other meaningless rituals. It was in this context when Guru Nanak ridiculed Khatries by pointing out that while they were meticulously observing the ritual purity of their food and kitchen by not allowing people of lower castes near their kitchens, they were eating the flesh of animals slaughtered in a Halal fashion by Muslims whom they considered malech. I have the following questions for those who interpret the above described hymn as condemnation of partaking Halal. If Guru Nanak had proscribed Halal, then why the Tenth Nanak had to declare Halal as a taboo for the Khalsa? Were not the Sikhs following Guru Nanak's teachings? How come there is no statement on the taboo of Halal by either of the other Eight Nanaks? If Guru Gobind Singh had appointed Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs, then why Sikhs have to look for their Rehat Maryada (code of conduct ) in other places like Rehit Namas? Should not Guru Granth Sahib be a guide for a Sikh in every walk of life?  [The Taboo of Halal for Sikhs]

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