Friday, February 28, 2014

Danish Muslims, Jews Fight Halal Ban

CAIRO — Rejecting ritual slaughter ban as a infringement to their religious rights, Danish Muslims and Jews have joined hands, vowing to fight the ban imposed on halal and kosher meat.
“Minority religious groups are afraid this ban will lead to other restrictions in the future,” Fatih Alev, president of the Danish Islamic Center in Copenhagen, told Religious News Service.
Earlier in February, Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen announced that animals would not be slaughtered before being pre-stunned.
“This decision is an improvement for animal welfare,” said Pernille Fraas Johnsen, agricultural campaign manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ Copenhagen branch.Accordingly, Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter will be illegal in Denmark.
“We don’t call it a ban on kosher (practices) but a ban on slaughter without stunning because for us, and I think for the government as well, it is a matter of animal welfare.”
Yet, the ban sparked angry reactions from Jewish and Muslim minorities, saying the law threatens their religious freedom.
Bent Lexner, chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, has also asserted that ritual slaughter was a key belief for Jews.
“It is a basic element of the Jewish religion and if they take this away, they take away a basic right,” he said.
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.
Religious Freedom
The latest moves were blasted by Jewish and Muslim groups as effectively disenfranchising their religious traditions.
“With this, it is no longer permitted to slaughter without pre-stunning a cow, and before, it was legal to do that — so it is a ban,” said Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Community Center in Copenhagen.
Though the European Union requires pre-stunning for animals, it allows exemptions for religious minorities.
“This has something to do with recognizing that you have a minority and the minority should have some kind of freedom to express its (values),” said Schwarz.
“So we keep hunting and lose ritual slaughter, which actually affects a much bigger group of people — but people whose position in Danish society is weak,” he said.
The Danish government move was also blasted as hypocritical, referring to Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was killed and fed to lions earlier this month to avoid inbreeding.
“It seems as if the priorities are science, animal welfare and religion in that order,” said Johnny Rasmussen, an entrepreneur in the Danish capital.
“I am more interested in what animal welfare organizations say about Marius the giraffe.”
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country's 5.4 million population.
The Scandinavian country has a Jewish minority of about 6,000.
Denmark is the latest European country to approve such a ban: Norway, Sweden and Switzerland passed laws forbidding ritual slaughter decades ago, and the Poles approved a ban in 2012.
The Dutch Senate rejected a bill by the Party for the Animals that same year, while the British have refused to introduce such a bill in spite of intense lobbying by animal rights groups.


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