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The big question: Where do baby and adult turtles


Sharia Law – Equal status for men and women

Listening BBC’s Womens’ Hour a few days ago (Dec 16th 2014, I recall) I heard an interview with a Conservative Party spokeswomen who was promoting the party’s Women2Win initiative.

I am not sure that the interview was especially oustanding. In any event I was on the M5 and so would not have been concentrating on the programme but one statement stood out:

“Women have different life experiences [compared to men]. They are neither inferior or superior.”

I wrote my earlier blog:

after widespread criticism, by feminists and others with a poor grasps of Islam, of sharia succession rules in the social media. There is a perception that Islam, that is the religion,  is misogynistic but is it?

It seems in the western world women can be different and equal at the same time. Why not in Islam?

Why do western folk so struggle to accommodate Islam and its cultures?

I guess not all Muslims follow the founding principles of Islam wonderfully well and may themselves struggle with their grasp of them. I have empathy with Islam as my blogs show. I have interesting conversations with many Muslims. When a work colleague told me that her husband was trying to encourage her to wear niqab, when she was more than a little way from accepting the idea, I had to conclude that his expectations may be wrong. Meanwhile his wife’s knowledge may not have been deep enough to ensure a fully informed discussion. But is this evidence of misogyny? Not necessarily.

How halal is halal (2) – getting close and personal

Putting a non-religious handle on halal slaughter (2)

The Old Brewer's Blog

In the first part of my series, “How halal is halal …” I introduced the matter of a prayer offered at the moment of slaughter. The prayer gives non-Muslims (and non-Jews) grief but frankly it’s not especially religious. I drew an analogy with the grace offered before meals in Christian families and typically before formal black tie dinners.

How many people who are not religious would attend a formal dinner and not take their seats before the guest of honour enters the room? Very few.

I suggest that the purpose of the prayer is to express thanks to our maker for his bounty and request forgiveness for the wilful taking of a life. Is that really primitive and something belonging to a long since bygone era? I am sorry but even humanists and secularists have to concede that.

If you go to YouTube and search on Mercy halal slaughter you…

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How halal is halal (1) – my lay introduction to dhabiha

Putting a non-religious handle on halal slaughter (1)

The Old Brewer's Blog

My background briefly is that I am a sort of Christian, not a Muslim, and I have had no explicit religious training. I have a farming background and a life science degree, pharmacy.

My interest in halal was stimulated by after reading up kosher rules and recognising that they were based on a solid foundation that will withstand any comparison with modern food hygiene and animal welfare standards. From hereon I’ll just refer to “halal” rather than “kosher”. The two terms are not fully interchangeable but for this article they can be so considered. Both originate from the times in which the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus are set – the Bronze Age. That’s a long time ago.

Detractors assume that because our religious ancestors did not possess microscopes they cannot possibly have had any idea of the causes of infection. Detractors refer to a sky pixie and…

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My letter to the OED suggesting a need to review its definition of the word “halal”

I have published my letter to the OED by way of inviting others to make a similar and hopefully more scholarly contribution that I can provide.

Good Morning All

I am researching the etymology of the English word “holy”. Linguistically its Germanic roots link to the Hebrew “halachah” but that’s not why I write.

I respectfully suggest that the OED reviews its entry for the word “halal”

My research took me to the OED entry “halal”, first in the local library’s 1989 print edition, where it come after “halacha” and its derivates. Odd, I thought, but not necessarily unreasonable for the time. Many people then very likely did not understand Islam well enough to know that “halal” has a seriously wider meaning. It’s more than:

“To kill (an animal) in the manner prescribed by Muslim law”

The 1989 OED entry was probably written much earlier than the publishing date. It may well have reflected the general understanding of what Islam was at the time that it was written. But we are now in 2014 and our awareness should have changed yet the current online entries have barely changed.

“Halal” and “halachah” has the same linguistic origin – appertaining to “the way”, “the way to go” thereby pointing to a “way of life”. Within that concept, the humane slaughter of animals called “dhabiha” or “zhabiha” (different transliterations of one word) and hygienic processing of the meat from the animal is just one element of a whole code of moral and social conduct. The corresponding Jewish/Hebrew code is now commonly referred to as “kosher”.

In Biblical times, a halal, especially dietary, lifestyle would have been important to public health. Bad food  processing, especially of meat, would have been associated with gastro-intestinal diseases such as dysentery. In the Prophet Mohammed’s time in the seventh century CE most people were illiterate and access to written documenation would have been limited. Good practice was taught by “rote”, by word of mouth, and was practised as a form of habit or “ritual”. Much was codified or written down in the Prophet’s time or era – hence the concept of a new religion. Today we mistakenly think of halal codes as having a theological basis. Such is our understanding of our ancient history.

The reality is that many of these good practices were applied by different peoples, communities or sects. These practices existed outside religions as we tend to think of them today.

Referring to linguistic associations, written Hebrew and Arabic use different visual alphabets but it is clear that when spoken there was great similarity between these and similar languages. This evidenced by the shortened Jewish and Muslim greeting transliterated respectively as “shalom” or “salaam”.

The full terms are “shalom aleichem” or “salaamu alaykum”.

I cite these connections because they help demonstrate the true or correct relationship between the Jewish “halachah” and Muslim “halal” that is not reflected in any way shape or form in the OED.

My authority is limited. My researches are not that well advanced and my liguinstic skills are limited but I recommend that the OED apply a scholarly review of the current dictionary entries.

EDL planning to protest against Dudley mosque

Doing or Not Doing God: religion, policy & politics

The far-right protest group intends to hold a demonstration in the town on February 7 according to one of its Facebook pages.

West Midlands MEP and Dudley councillor Bill Etheridge has asked the group to cancel its plans and leave the mosque issue to be settled democratically.

The UKIP MEP said: “The mosque is a controversial matter and a lot of people have their opinions on it.

“It is being opposed on planning grounds.

More here.

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Gadhimai – help needed with the sums

Readers of my blogs will see that I have empathy with the practice of shechita and dhabiha. It may not stand out in my blogs to date but I do not see the prescribed Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughter as “ritual” or especially “religious”. These attributes have only been acquired since first Jews codified the practice after the destruction of the Second Temple and later with the establishment of Islam. In my view the practice had existed for a very long time before it was codified. It’s how meat was slaughtered. But Gadhimai?

I spend enough time in the Twittersphere to know that the Nepalese Gadhimai festival raises a few very serious questions. The Twittersphere says that some 500,000 animals are to be slaughtered in order seemingly to please a goddess. To be frank I have not researched this to any extent do cannot pass any value judgements.

One picture on Twitter shows a skinny bovine whose physical condition would surely warrant an RSPCA intervention and prosecution here in the UK. It’s certainly not an animal that Josh Archer would want to take to show. It’s standing among hundreds of already dead animals. The smell must be terrible. I have to assume the picture is real. Why would people want to photoshop such a gruesome image? A number of pictures capture the moment before beheading. If it’s not real why are the Nepalese government or embassy people not trying to set the record straight?

But I am not writing explicitly to condemn the practice. I don’t have enough information. If what I see is right the practice is horrendous.

Jews and Muslims kill to eat. As they cut the throat they offer a prayer that is meant to thank Our Creator for his bounty and ask forgiveness for taking/sacrificing a precious life. They kill what they need to eat.

If the Twittersphere’s number of 500,000 animals to be slaughtered is correct what do they do with the meat?

The population of Nepal is just shy of 30,000,000. So one animal is to be killed for every 60 people – that’s not 60 (extended) families but 60 individuals – some with small appetites. What facilities have they got for distributing, cooking and eating the meat within a reasonable period of a few days before the meat becomes unsuitable for human consumption?

Now we don’t that 500,000 animals will have been killed this year. Seemingly India has blocked cross border traffic of live animals. The figure has not been loudly contested. Five years ago it is claimed that 250,000 animals were killed.

I do not have all the facts but if this festival is intended to produce meat to eat the figures do not feel right. If the animals are merely wasted that is a considerable waste of a precious resource.

One day I might research this ritual more. For now I can only see pictures of a shockingly inhumane practice that should never be compared and conflated with shechita or dhabiha.