Good halal practice is good practice – a female twist?

I have just left a Deen Institute conference in which attitudes of women, misogyny, in Islam were debated. One speaker, a women, aswere most speakers, made the point that in Islam great care is taken not to harm animals prior to slaughter yet some Muslim men treat women badly.

I am a Christian, just. I do not have a specific religious agenda except the promotion of greater understanding between and within the three Abrahamic faiths. I am not an expert in halal (or kosher,the two have the same roots) rules other than a recognition that they make sense. Islam seems to make sense.

To many non-Muslims the mention of the word “halal” invokes images of cruelty but how can this be? Islam is a very spiritual faith in which man’s relationship with nature is paramount. Mankind is expected to treat the environment and the life that it supports with respect. The origin of Islamic slaughter probably cannot be fully traced but a study of shechita, the Jewish term, teaches that the sharpness of the knife is critical. Why Jews in particular but Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and North Africa go to so much trouble to sharpen a knife, so as to minimise pain, if they wanted the animal to suffer? What would be the point?

The reality is that good Jewish and Muslim slaughter is designed to be quick and humane. Anyone with little more than a decent knowledge of first aid will know that after a sudden loss of blood unconsciousness is rapid. Many readers will know of people who, on receiving bad news, have fainted. The process is quick. The body’s fight and flight mechanism kicks in and redirects blood flow muscles. If the loss of blood pressure in the brain is sudden unconsciousness quickly ensues. No one remembers what happens when they are fully unconscious.

Without launching a debate on halal slaughter I ask that readers accept that good halal slaughter practice is good practice. I draw attention to the qualification – “good practice”. Conversely bad practice is not halal and is un-Islamic.

Just to recap I am unequivocal and am very sure that good halal slaughter, dhabiha, is humane. Islam requires good behaviour.

I follow anti-Muslim hate and rhetoric on Twitter and am now seeing pictures of extremist beheading and killing come into my time line. The point is that killings of this nature, like that of Drummer Lee Rigby in 2013, have probably not been performed in a humane manner. In effect these killings cannot possibly be construed as being “halal”. By definition they are un-Islamic.

And this brings me back to women in Islam. How can it be Islamic to treat women badly and as mere chattels, property or even as slaves? I do not claim any expertise here but how can brutal treatment and denial of rights be good halal practice?

Now here’s thought, and if I am wrong I will apologise without reservation, but does not Islam allow for a man to take more than onewife, presumably to take under his wing a brother’s widow with a family, PROVIDING he can care for them properly, that’s fairly, and equally. That suggests to me a caring responsibility. Need I say more other than to ask where does misogyny in Islam come from?

Oh! I referred to my Christian background. My Twitter bio describes as developing a grumpy old man syndrome. I am not on a hobby horse. In my lifetime the Christian marriage ceremony included an obligation on thebride “to … obey”. The Christian Church has an issue with woman priests and bishops. In the secular western culture equal pay for equal work for women I an issue. The issue of fair treatment of women is not just an Islamic issue.


Clothes made with two different threads

Earlier I tweeted in reply to Dan Snow @thehistoryguy Heterosexual sex perhaps?

Surely there is a meaningful basis for most, if not all, seemingly curious religious rituals.

My reading suggests that ancient Hebrew priests practised extreme hygiene for the purpose of their sacrificial duties. They lived in. Wet dreams and sleeping/lying with another man would have rendered them unclean. They would have undergone ritual cleansing – the origin Christian baptism and Muslim ritual ablutions – before admission to the temple. No intercourse was permitted.

Temple sacrifice stopped in AD70 with the destruction of the second temple.

As for clothing made of two materials, I submit the problem may have been the seem, which may not have been easy to clean.

Dan was tweeting, as were many others, after UKIP’s David Silvester blamed recent floods over David Cameron’s making gay “marriage” legal.

Dan tweeted that he had worn clothes of different threads.

Many years ago I heard of a GP who had been presented with a patient with a line of bites around both legs either above or below the knee. He asked his patient to take off her skirt and he unpicked the hem which was home to a flee infestation. This skirt may have been new and of dubious provenance – such as back street sweat shop.

I hazard a guess that anything with a hem or seem would not have been easy to get absolutely clean.

This may not be the actual reason for the ban on clothes made from two threads – often presumed to mean two different materials – but there must be an earthly reason. Why make something up?

Who am I?

My blogs are designed to be thought provoking. I cannot pretend to be an authority on the subjects I will discuss so why am I blogging?

Firstly I have to say I am not religious and probably most accurately described as a ‘nominal’ Christian. I usually describe myself as a “lapsed Christian and a lapsed atheist in that order”.

What do I mean?

I was brought up in a Christian Methodist tradition. I even aspired to become a lay preacher when I was in my mid teens. It never happened. I began to question the whole Christian concept. It started not to make sense. God didn’t cross my path at university. I had no inclination to join a faith community when I left home.

I declared myself to be an atheist but I guess I never fully abandoned faith. One day I bought a book called “Born in Blood” and this introduced me to the mysteries of ancient history. Another book “A History of God” inspired me to start looking into the ancient history of religion.

My enthusiasm for interfaith work follows an “awakening” and a realisation that Christianity and Islam are not exclusive religions but on the contrary have shared roots. My schooling left me an impression that Christianity and Islam were alien to each other. Crusade teaching tends to lead one to think of Muslims as enemies.

I now know this is not so. You could say I am now enlightened. I now see that the three Abrahamic religions may the better be understood if treated as strands of a single religion. For sure Islam (and Judaism) is better understood when one studies their similarities and not their differences.

Hopefully that shows my direction of travel.

Is there only one Abrahamic religion?

This is a modified copy of a long tweet. Please forgive Twitter styling.

I am finding it difficult not to believe that negative stereotyping is not hard wired in children at an early age.

My interfaith studies suggest that a big problem that Christianity tends to be #Islamophobic. There are significant elements in the broad Christian Church who do not recognise that the #God of #Muslims is their own God.

When pressed @c_of_e and @ABCJustin find it difficult to accept without equivocation or mental reservation that the God of Jesus is the God of Muhammed.

Surely therein lies the problem. If were to accept that there is one God we can begin to think of a single Abrahamic religion.

Would that be so hard? Neither Judaism, Islam nor Christianity are exactly homogeneous religions on the first instance. I was recently introduced to the concept of #unitarian Christians, who don’t follow trinitarian principles.

Just a thought but if modern RE curricula focused on sameness and not difference surely attitudes are bound to change.

Misuse of Christian Symbols

I see that many tweeters who cannot accept the Christians and Muslims share a God use the a national emblem as a rallying standard to attack Islam.

The British/UK national flag is a composite of three Christian symbols and one of these is the national flag of England.

I have to assume that Christ would not condemn Islam were he with us in body today so is the use of the St George Cross to attack Islam an appropriate use of this Christian inspired emblem?

My Islamophobia

I describe myself as Islamophobic because there are many aspects of Islam that I am not comfortable with. A phobia is an irrational fear. It does not have to mean hate and I know from my multi-religious workplace Sikhs, Christians and Muslims work professionally together with no issues. Scratch the surface, however, and you discover ignorance – but not hate.

I am of a certain age – not old enough to be in my twilight years but of pensionable age. That’s significant.

As it happens I went to a grammar school. Religious education was called ‘divinity’ and was 100% focused on Christianity.

I was introduced to Islam but through history teaching. I do not recall it ever being taught in any way that developed my understanding that Islam and Christianity were at least co-religions – if not strands of a single religion, which arguably it is, or they are, since they share their God.

Whether by design or, more probably, by accident Islam came across as an alien culture. I had no idea then that Islam shares so much with Christianity. I know now that the two religions have practices and customs, rituals if you prefer, that have common roots. Many of those practices have evolved from cultural needs, the origins of which may pre-date recorded history.

Therein in part may lie the problem. We have lost contact with our ancient roots. There is much about our religion(s) that we don’t understand.

For me the light began to shine when I looked up kosher rules on the Internet. I saw modern food hygiene standards. Looking further into this I quickly saw that Jewish kosher rules and halal rules were essentially the same – and a colleague then informed me that in the ancestral homelands of the Abrahamic religions Christians still follow halal practices.

The very mention of the word ‘halal’ conjures up images of a barbaric method of slaughter but the word covers animal welfare from “farm to fork”. Why, I have to ask, would slaughterers go to extreme lengths to ensure that a knife is sharp, to prevent pain, only then to torture an animal? Those of us who are not Muslims or Jews are taught a myth.

I may develop this subject on another day because there may be a need for a reappraisal of halal slaughter in an industrial age. For now I merely want to get across the idea that many of us may have learnt unnecessarily negative stereotyping of Islam.

That’s the problem. We learn negatives. Negativity is hard wired at an early age. I am not sure that modern religious education curricula help. I need more information but believe that because the three strands of a common Abrahamic religion are taught as separate religions people are not equipped to develop an understanding of the common themes of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

It’s all down to ignorance.

Do Christians share their God with Muslims?

Some Christians insist that their God is Allah, the god of Islam. Their leaders appear to be ambivalent. Is there a need for an unequivocal comment from Catholic and Anglican church leaders?

Christians would never argue that their God is not the God of Jews. They are happy with Christianity being allied to Judaism under the umbrella term “Judeo-Christian” religions. The term is exclusive and sidelines Islam.

Jesus was a Jew so his God was the God of Abraham and Moses. 

In the same way that Jews and Christians ascribe their origins to Isaac, second son of Abraham, Muslims ascribe their roots to the first son, Ishmael. 

If Abraham was a monotheist surely God and Allah can only be one.

How, then, can today’s Muslims now have a different god? Did Isaac and Ishmael have different gods? Where is the evidence? 

Muslims must surely only be offended by any assertion that Allah, a word with the same root as the Jewish term El, is not God. If El and Allah are not one is there any possible way of determining if one is true and the other is false? 

If the peoples that became Muslims believed they were following a god other than God why have they adopted much of the Old Testament time line and why adopt and use so many Judeo-Christian first names? 

Frankly it seems to me that Jews and Muslims have a common God, who was also the God of Jesus. This poses the question if Jews, Muslims and Jesus and his first followers had one God, when did today’s Christians adopt a new God? 

Put another way, if today’s Christians seriously believe that they do not share their God with Muslims can they claim to share their God with Jews?