A few days ago I got up determined to keep Islam and politics out of my mind â€“ I tend to think about such subjects a lot these days â€“ at least until I would turn my computer on and start working.
I went to the front door to check my mail and among the letters there was a leaflet with the menu of a local takeaway. I inspected it and found the dreaded word: 'halal'.
There is no way you can keep Islam out of your life, even out of your thoughts for long, in today's Britain, even more so in today's London. The saying "If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain" seems particularly appropriate under the circumstances. I did not want to figuratively go to Islam, but Islam came to me.
I threw the takeaway leaflet in the dustbin, but not before having phoned the place to let the people running it know that I was about to keep their leaflet, since the takeaway is convenient and close to us, but that when I saw they were selling halal meat I got rid of it â€“ which is exactly the truth. I added that there are many other people like me in our area who don't want to eat halal meat and that the takeaway is going to lose business because of this issue.
The only thing I did not mention is that I am a vegetarian, which is the best, surest way not to be affected by halal if you live in Londonistan, although I was vegetarian long before the birth of this problem in the West: I recommend it to everybody, regardless of the halal question. Let's not delude ourselves: even in the best conditions, slaughter is always atrocious for the animals, it is in fact murder. But although a vegetarian, I would not buy anything from a halal-meat-peddling outlet.
People who haven't seen the light sometimes say to me during a discussion that the Islamisation of Britain is never going to happen, a view, alas, shared by many.
The fact is that we do not even need to talk about the future, because it is already happening.
A clear case of Islamisation already present is that of halal meat.
This subject is one of those that most antagonizes British and other European natives against Islam for two reasons.
The first is that lots of people care about animals and they do not want to see them unnecessarily suffer to satisfy the ritual requirements of a doctrine, Islam, which is alien to us and seems to disprove its ethical and therefore religious status exactly with precepts like these that instruct its believers to increase, rather than diminish, the suffering in the world.
It looks paradoxical that the improvements that our civilized society has introduced to at least alleviate, if not eliminate, the terrible agony of slaughter should be reversed on the whim of a group of people with a way of thinking stuck in the 7th century AD and who came to our countries with their hands stretched out asking to be helped to get out of the poverty and backwardness that Islam forces on them, only to practically replicate those conditions here.
The second reason why halal meat is so unpopular is that here we can see in practice, perhaps for the first time on a large scale, what Islamisation is.
What many people strongly object to is that they have been compelled to live according to sharia law against their will, and that is the very essence of Islam and its supremacism.
Many UK schools, hospitals, canteens, hundreds of restaurants and pubs have been routinely serving halal meat to non-Muslims who did not know that they were eating meat from ritually slaughtered animals. Famously, even sporting venues such as Wembley Stadium and Ascot, supermarkets including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Somerfield and the Co-op, fast-food chains like McDonald's, Subway and KFC, and pizza chains like Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut and Nando's have been selling halal meat without letting their customers know.
Part of the reason for this is that not all meat produced from animals killed by halal methods of slaughter is suitable for Muslim consumption because it may still not meet other Islamic dietary requirements, and therefore may end up being sold to non-Muslims. Something similar happens with kosher meat for Jewish consumption, which may find its way to the wider community.
Even Easter eggs and cat food have been found to be halal in Australia, as denounced by the Aussie website Halal Choices, which is so popular that it has received more than 250,000 visits since the Christian activist Kirralie Smith created it two years ago.
And this is the good news. The movement against halal is global, developed in all Western countries with a Muslim population. Facebook alone pullulates with anti-halal pages, sometimes dedicated to the closure or the prevention of a local abattoir.
Only a couple of months ago a row erupted over a North-East London school's decision to start serving only halal meat to its pupils. Parents objected to these plans of the management at Larkswood Primary School in Chingford. These are people whom we should support. It was also discovered that halal is the only meat served in three-quarters of council-supported schools and academies (46 in total) in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.
The Daily Mail reporter who wrote the article about UK institutions and commercial outlets serving halal linked to above managed to gain access to a halal abattoir undercover. Here is what he witnessed:
They [Animals] are fully conscious as their throats are slit by a slaughterman as he utters prayers to Allah to 'bless' the animal. The Âcreature then bleeds to death in a process that can take more than 30 seconds ...
Though the deep incision to the neck cuts through the animal's windpipe and main arteries, the creatures are still able to cry out.
During my two-hour visit, I watch as lamb after lamb has its throat sliced open while fully conscious. They make pitiful bleating and gurgling sounds as they choke on their own blood. It's a chilling sound that, once heard, stays with you for days afterwards.
And then there's the fact that the animals can witness each other being killed as they travel along the Âconveyor belt. Their hooves twitch wildly as they try to break fee.
One lamb cries out for more than 20 seconds before it flops off the end of the conveyor belt and on to a rotating table. From there, it is shackled by its hind legs and hauled up to the ceiling on a hook, where it is left with a dozen others to 'bleed out' â€“ another Âimportant part of the halal process.
Of course, no slaughter of an animal is easy to watch. But it is hard to remain dispassionate as I watch Âdozens of still-conscious animals bleeding to death, the floor covered by an inch of warm, frothy blood.
British law, which requires animals to be stunned and rendered unconscious before slaughter, should be changed so that it no longer makes exceptions for both halal and kosher, as Liberty GB says in its manifesto. Sweden and Norway banned ritual slaughter in the 1930s. Switzerland, one of the most ancient countries to be based on popular consent and direct democracy, banned it as early as 1893.
It's worth explaining that, if we implement that, nobody will have to go against his or her religious beliefs or commandments.
Islam specifically exempts its faithful from the obligation to eat halal food if none is available:
He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful. Quran (002:173)
Neither Islam nor Judaism prescribes meat consumption. If a follower of either faith does not want to eat non-permitted meat, he can be a vegetarian, thus also doing a favour to his heart and decreasing his risk of cancer.
Interestingly, it's a major secular Jewish philosopher, Peter Singer, who has this recommendation for Muslims and his fellow Jews in his book Animal Liberation (page 155, The New York Review of Books, second edition):
Meanwhile, those who do not wish to eat meat slaughtered contrary to the current teachings of their religion have a simple alternative: not to eat meat at all. In making this suggestion, I am not asking more of religious believers than I ask of myself; it is only that the reasons for them to do it are stronger because of the additional suffering involved in producing the meat they eat.
Jewish writer and Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a vegetarian, said: "I am not a vegetarian for my own health, but for the health of the chickens", and "every day is Treblinka for the animals". He wrote a very poignant short story, "The Slaughterer", in which a compassionate man, Yoineh Meir, is appointed the town's ritual slaughterer in the old country, and obediently performs his duties, but his life is turned into a living hell of nightmares and obsessions of blood and slaughter, until madness and drowning himself in the river become his final escape:
The killing of every beast, great or small, caused him as much pain as though he were cutting his own throat. Of all the punishments that could have been visited upon him, slaughtering was the worst.
While we are waiting for the law to be changed to prohibit ritual slaughter, at the very least halal meat should not reach the non-Muslim market (and kosher the non-Jewish), and all meat from animals that were slaughtered when conscious should be clearly labelled as such. There is certainly a vast number of people who want clear labelling, knowledge and choice.
This article was first published at Enza Ferreri's blog.