Halal food bill still not enforced in Illinois

I loved the chicken sandwiches at the Muslim restaurant next to my office outside Chicago. The meat was juicy, tender, and spiced just right. More importantly, it was guaranteed as Halal to my co-workers and I by the establishment's staff. I used to buy it regularly until I discovered their meat wasn't really "Halal". Or I should say Zabiha.

What I consider Islamically edible food, I've learned, is not always the same to others and vice-versa. While varying definitions of what is really Halal, particularly meat, have split the Muslim community for decades in North America, the lack of a consensus are now costing Muslims in Illinois much needed consumer protection.

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan signed the Illinois Halal Food Bill into law in August 2001, making the state the third one to pass Halal food legislation at the time, the others being New Jersey and Minnesota.

Halal food legislation requires producers, merchants, and sellers of Halal products to provide proof that their products are Halal. Consumers are entitled to view this evidence to see if the Halal claim is legitimate or not. If not, the vendor is subject to penalties of the law. Violating the Halal Food Act in Illinois is a Class B misdemeanor.

The Act was supposed to be effective January 1, 2002. But because the Muslim community in Illinois, particularly Islamic scholars, have still not reached a consensus of what standard of Halal should be maintained, the legislation is still not being enforced.Some of the views on what is Halal and what is not

"There is such a broad spectrum and some people want to claim one extreme and others want to go to other extreme and all shades in between," explains Mazhar Hussaini about the understanding of what constitutes Halal to Muslims. Hussaini is CEO of the North American Halal Foundation and author of the book Islamic Dietary Concepts and Practices.

One "extreme" view, he says, accepts all meat slaughtered by the People of Book, Christians and Jews, as Halal. The danger here, Hussaini says, is that this may result in Muslims accepting almost every kind of meat as Halal.

The other "extreme" requires all Halal meat to be slaughtered by a Muslim slaughterman in a traditional manner. That means handslaguthered, severing four passages in the neck resulting in the death of the animal , without stunning, and only choosing animals and poultry raised without hormones, antibiotics and animals or animal byproducts as their feed.

The "in between views" include those who accept eating meat that has been mechanically slaughtered with a tape recording of the words "Bismillah Allahu Akbar" (In the Name of God, God is the Greatest) at the time of slaughter. These words must be recited over an animal at the time of slaughter for it to be considered Islamically slaughtered.

In Hussaini's view, the way to resolve the problem of definition is simple: go back to the exact way that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to make animals fit for Muslim consumption. That, he explains, is the strictest understanding of Halal, described above. This would mean:

  • animals chosen must be free of hormones and have been raised strictly on vegetarian feed, with no trace of animal products or by-products in their diet;
  • they must not have any antibiotics in their system at the time of slaughter;
  • they must be slaughtered without stunning;
  • the slaughter should be done in person by a Muslim slaughterman by hand, not machine; -the slaughterman must recite the Islamic blessing (Bismillah, Allahu Akbar) over the meat;
  • the animals must be slaughtered from the front of the neck, cutting all four passages: the throat, the windpipe, and the two jugular veins in the neck;
  • the death of the animals should occur by thorough bleeding, without cutting the spinal cord.

Currently, Hussaini says, about 30 percent of the Muslim community in Illinois, which includes about 450,000 Muslims in Chicago alone, accepts this definition of Halal. But if it is chosen as the standard the Halal Food Bill must enforce, it will be acceptable to Muslims even if they do not hold as strict an understanding of Halal.

It is up to the Muslim community in Illinois at this point to urge their scholars and Imams to reach a consensus on the definition of Halal so that Muslim consumers can confidently consume food labeled Halal, without confusion, miscommunication or deception.

 

"Halal conference of Kuwait" by Halal Industry and its Services Conference of Kuwait - Halal Industry and its Services Conference of Kuwait. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Halal_conference_of_Kuwait.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Halal_conference_of_Kuwait.jpg

Comments

In the State of Michigan we have PA 207 of 2002. It amended PA 328 of 1931. As a regulator responsible for enforcing this act, in part, I have a difficult time understanding exactly how one can determine whether the food is "prepared or processed in accordance with Islamic religious requirements". I wonder whether the halal industry could do a better job of policing itself by forming its own guild and standards than to put vague laws on the books that provide little protection to the consumer.

Location

Another condition should also be added to make the requirments complete according to all Islamic Fiqhs which is that the animal is made to face the Qibla at the time of slaughter.

Location

TX

AS Sallam Alaikum, I think this is the right and clear definision of halal.We should go back to our Quran and right Sunah to resolve our debates and standarize that for halal food stamp and certificate.No matter other people disagree,we shouldn't change the fact. Further more, such issues treated through higher assembly.

Location

northbrook

i was not aware that illinois had this legislation. i am grateful that there has been an effort to help muslims in this way. but, i also think that being sensitive to animals is important. i think we should be conscientious of an animals feelings. although measures may not have been taken to stun (reduce the pain) of animals in history, that does not mean that taking this extra measure today should be considered wrong, especially since we may now have the technology to do so. in simpler times, this may not have been possible or even practical, but today it is probably possible without compromising the healthiness of the meat. as for determining the best way to reduce the pain of animals when slaughtered, that is not up to me, but if we could do so, then I would be for it, and would not consider it wrong. i also prefer the work to be done by hand, rather than a machine. a machine has no soul. the whole point is that we want to bless the animal in allah's name and a machine cannot do this. i also agree that the animals should be raised properly and without genetically enhanced foods or pork.

Location

illinois

SalaamsThere should not be an argument. We know the right way, let's follow it. Remember Allah (swa) is watching everything we do. Our children are watching also. We must set the right example. THIS IS OUR LIFE, AND DEATH.SalaamsSis. Khadijah

Location

Blue Bell, Pa

As Salam Alaikum.We should make all effort to get the bill passed.This is the only time.I personallay feel that whatever my kids are eating will not only nourish them but also make them what they are i.e. if they eat Halal then their thinking way of living will also be halal & they will understand the meaning of Halal as they see us practicing it.The food is nourishing their brain & heart.Therefore the Halal thinking & halal feeling!!Please let us know how we can help.The method you mentioned for slaughtering is absolutely correct.We have to follow the sunnah not anybody elses version.Jazakallah

Location

Fatima

IT IS VERY DISGUSTING TO KNOW THAT CHICKEN ARE FED THE PORK. I KNOW A MUSLIM BROTHER WHO IS BRINGING ORGANIC CHIKCKEN UNDER THE NAME HALAL PRIDE. PLEASE BUY THAT PRODUCT IT IS HEALTHY AND 100 % HALAL ZABIHA.

Location

chicago

Assalamulalaikum,Jazakallah khair for the clear and straigt for ward defination of Halal ,i appreciate and justify this decision but on the other hand here in Canada ICNA has certified the machine slaughtered and radio spoken Bismillah sacrificed animal to be considered as Halaal , so that's the biggest controversial issue .I simply don't understand why couldn't there be a united authority of Clerics Council which can decide on such confusing and critical issues, and why not the muslims all over the World follow it .

Location

MISSISSAUGA , CANADA

Salaam alaikum,In reply to 7 Sisters from Virginia,By calling for chickens not to be fed with animals or animal by-products, I think the brother meant pig or some other animal, not worms, grubs, etc. It is common practice in America and Europe to give chickens and cows feed made from the remains of pigs! This is an appalling practice. Even if these animals were slaughtered in the strictest zabiha way possible, they would still be haram because they were fed pork!

Location

atlanta

That the animal should not be fed with animal or animal by product, does it mean that chicken cannot be fed with worms or grubs? Free range Chicken will eat bugs, worms and other meats when they forage for food.

Location

Virginia

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