“I don't think you will find Muslims in the kosher meat industry because Jews have the industry blocked up from top to bottom. Muslims are consumers of Kosher meat and by buying Kosher meat they are supporting the Kosher meat industry at the expense of the Zabiha meat industry,” a Muslim brother, who wished to remain anonymous noted.
The Halal meat industry is really much more than simply a way for you to pick up your weekly or monthly package of Halal meat. It is, in fact, the engine of the Muslim economy in America.
New York-based Muslim social scientist Ilyas Bayunus conducted a study in which he found that Chicago has a Muslim population of about 300,000. The state of Illinois has a population of 400,000.
This indicates the tremendous buying power of Muslims in this city and this state.
In Chicago alone, there are a minimum of 60 retail Halal meat shops that are owned and operated by Muslims.
Currently, the Halal meat business makes close to $5 million a year. But the potential profit could be as high as $60 to $80 million. The market hasn't developed for a number of reasons, some of them can be attributed to Muslim consumers, others to Muslim businesses.
Below are some things you can do to support Muslim business as a consumer:
1. LIVE HALAL, BUY HALAL
This is the most important tip you'll probably ever get. Living Halal means trying to ensure that every aspect of our lives fits in accordance with Islamic guidelines.
Food is only one issue. But its importance cannot be underestimated.
“...Then he mentioned [the case of] a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty and who spreads out his hands to the sky [saying]: O Lord! O Lord! - while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing is unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully, so how can he be answered!” reads part of a Hadith in Sahih Muslim.
Eating, drinking, dressing and living Halal is not only our obligation as Muslims. Not doing so is what stops our Duas to Allah from being accepted.
Sadly, most Muslims would rather buy meat from the local supermarket than trek out to a Halal grocery store, which is not necessarily very far away. Most big cities in the U.S. and Canada have Halal grocery stores.
They would also rather pay less than the extra few dollars to get the meat at the Halal grocery store.
2. MAKE SURE YOU'RE BUYING REAL ZABIHA MEAT
Take it upon yourself to ensure that whatever you are buying is really Halal and in the case of meat, is Zabiha. This is a responsibility no one should turn their back on.
Some Muslims may argue that this is unnecessary nitpicking: if a Muslim tells you food is Halal, you should not questions. But Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini , the leading Muslim halal expert in America, offers an interesting rebuttal to this:
“This is true only if you are invited as a guest,” he says. “On an individual level, yes it is true. But when it comes to the community level we have to question and we have to enquire because we cannot be taken for a ride, and we should not be fooled.“
The emphasis should be on accountability to Allah first and the Muslim community second.
3. ENCOURAGE EATING HALAL
Supporting Muslim Halal grocery stores and businesses should just end with our own personal scrutiny and satisfaction with a given establishment. Rather, Muslims should encourage each other to eat Halal and buy Halal from Muslim businesses as well.
After all, Halal is more than just about food. It's a way a life. It's who we are as Muslims.
4. ENCOURAGE MUSLIM SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Start or encourage other efforts at developing the Muslim economy, and specifically, of producing their own food.
There is a need not just for Muslims to be involved with slaughtering meat the Islamic way. There is a growing need to have animals raised in an Islamic way as well: free of hormones, and dangerous drugs often given to animals on farms across America.
Seek out ways for Muslims to develop truly Halal alternatives.
5. DON'T EXPECT SUCCESS IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME
Muslims often point to the success of the Jewish community in North America in establishing a viable system for Kosher food products and labeling. However, what they forget is that the Jewish community has been working towards this goal in America for a much longer time than the Muslim community has.
Similarly, we should not expect Br. X, our local friendly Halal grocer to compare with big multinationals, who are selling products worldwide today. We have to remember that these multinationals, in many cases, started out as smaller mom and pop stores, and later, after many, many years of experience, as well as trial, error, success and failure, are at the top in their respective food market niche today.
6. EXPECT HALAL STANDARDS
DEMAND from Muslim stores not just that the meat and food they provide is Halal, but also that they DO NOT sell Haram products, whether it is obscene videos (of the American or Indo-Pakistani variety) alcohol, pork, etc. You as a consumer can make a change. But use a method of wisdom and politeness first.
If this doesn't work, consider an all-out boycott of the store until it changes its policy and removes such product.
Until we demand better from our stores, it is unlikely the situation will change.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muslimimiesstockmanndelinruokatiskill%C3%A4.jpg