My Reasons for Joining the Quilliam Foundation

I believe we have some distance to travel before we understand concepts of blasphemy and apostasy and the fundament penalties. Adam talks about rationalist and anti-rationalist camps in Islam. For me Islam only makes sense in a rationalist context.

Adam Deen

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My decision to join Quilliam Foundation has required a great deal of thought and months of discussion with Quilliam’s Managing Director, Haras Rafiq. I had to think deeply about past decisions that Quilliam (QF) as an organisation has made that I haven’t necessarily supported and also about the core ethos of the organisation. I have come to the conclusion that QF shouldn’t be defined by controversial decisions of the past but by the values upon which the organisation is founded upon. It may not be coincidence that al-Hakim al-Jishumiyya al-Bayhaqi (a Hanafi Mu’Tazili jurist from the 12th century) in his book ‘Satan’s Epistle’ asks: “if Satan were given the chance to speak on the Day of Judgment, whom would he pay tribute to?”  Al Bayhaqi concludes that Satan would end up praising and thanking every Muslim who adapted ideas that attributed to God things that were irrational, unjust or hideous.  Al…

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Butchering day: turkeys (graphic photo documentary)

With grateful thanks this article includes a description of the kosher slaughter of birds which the practitioner qualitatively champions after being shown. As far as I can see there are no religious overlays.

From my reading fully trained Jewish slaughtermen may have some of the best expertise – not least they will have been taught by experts.

Howling Duck Ranch

Warning: If you are not seriously interested in learning about turkey butchering, seeing the process documented in photos, then I suggest you do not read or look any further.

Hot water ready for scalding birds.

I have, up until today, learned most of what I know about farming, animal husbandry, animal veterinary care, and butchering from a book. When you have been raised in the city, don’t have a farming background nor access to someone knowledgeable to teach you, this becomes the only way to learn.

My friend Clarence was butchering his turkeys today, and upon hearing his technique, my ears perked up and I asked him if I could help. Not only was it a chance for me to learn by doing, but also it was a chance for me to get behind the camera and document the process!

We had discussed the various ways of killing a turkey and when he asked me how…

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The parable of the prodigal son

No, I am not going to go all religious. I am not going to explain the meaning of the parable of the prodigal son. There are many people much better qualified to do so than I am able to do that.  I can, however, talk about the killing of the fatted calf. This story points to the practice of the time of eating meat only on special days – not least because they would never have been able to produce enough for daily consumption that we may be used to.

Of the prodigal son’s return to his family home the gospel writer, Luke, wrote:

22 “But the father said to his servants, … 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

How should we interpret and use these statements?

I think that it is reasonable to assume that the peoples of the Holy Lands and the neighbouring regions would not have wasted energy time and resources on rearing beef cattle in order to produce t-bone steaks. In fact we know that rearing animals just for their protein is inefficient. On the other hand, the milk from goats and cows would have been a useful renewable source of liquid protein. The “cow” is respected in Hindu for this reason. Male progeny would have been culled quite early in their lives but when big enough to eat.

From what I can see the peoples of Jesus’ time would have eaten meat only on special occasions. Indeed I have read that in Greek tradition that they gathered to eat meat on either special days, say birthdays, or on days commemorating events that were special to the community. For Jews the Passover is a special event. The completion of the gathering of the current year’s harvest would have been marked by a harvest festival. The winter solstice would have been a special occasion as people looked forward to a cycle of new life. With different iterations of calendars Christmas and New Year celebrations have become detached from the winter solstice but clearly that must be the origin of these festivals. But I digress.

Why would meat from lamb, goats and calves have been eaten only on special days?

One reason is that if a lamb, goat or calf is going to be big enough to eat it will probably be too big for the nuclear family – mum, dad, 2.4 children and one or two grandparents, perhaps. For sure if they were going kill and take the life of an animal they would not want to waste anything that could be eaten. They would have gathered the extended family together and probably included their servants.

Alternatively they would have had a community event, a street party, as it were. You can imagine that a long-lost community member returning home would have meant something to the whole community as well as the immediate family. Again nothing that could be eaten would have been wasted and we can see the concept of charity developing as meat was distributed to the poor.

How do I know this? I recently went to a Muslim wedding feast. There was plenty of meat and there seemed to be plenty left over. I am told that it was taken away and distributed so as not to waste it.

Contrast that with a secular love affair with meat. I remember when Marks and Spencer started selling fresh food and short-dated ready meals. The shelves were usually empty by mid-afternoon. There was clearly a policy of not overstocking so that little meat was thrown away. Today we expect to see supermarket shelves full so that we can buy meat at almost anytime of the day. Much gets wasted posing the question: “How many animals die in vain?”

I have written this in part in the context of the often ill-informed conversations about the cruelty of halal slaughter. What I have described are infrequent occasions when meat was eaten in Biblical times. Animals were or should have been killed with reverence. They were cooked with care. There were probably good practical reasons. Animals treated badly at slaughter may well not have produced good meat. Improper cooking would have led to food poisoning. Throwing the inedible carcass onto a spoil heap would have attracted vermin and posed a health risk so they learned to burn it.

This is the origin of sacrifice. It’s how they prepared their meat in Biblical times and earlier. They probably gathered at a dedicated piece of land kept clean and protected for this purpose – hence the concept of consecrated land.

I think that we can say for sure that the peoples of Biblical times did not know about bacteria but for sure they, or rather their priests or prophets, would have been able to work out what was good and bad practice. We can also assume that they had a sense of the “sanctity of life”. In Muslim tradition a prayer effectively to thank Our Creator for his bounty and to ask forgiveness for taking life is offered. Jews do something similar. Christians traditionally say grace at mealtimes.

In our secular world all these considerations are abandoned. We expect to eat meat any day. We are usually disconnected from its production. We have introduced intensive rearing and industrial slaughter where animals are treated as mere commodities. Some this is changing. In recent years we have become aware of factory farming and campaign against it but we care not to think too much about what happens between the farm gate and supermarket shelves. We have moved a long way from the reverential concept of sacrifice around two thousand years ago and earlier. Too many of us are too quick to condemn the religious component of slaughter but perhaps we need to revisit it.

Muslim votes push Labour towards victory in Oldham

That was a headline in The Times on December 3rd, 2015, the day of a by-election in Oldham.

Why should this story warrant such a headline? Surely the Labour Party is more likely to want to demonstrate inclusive policies. Is it not rationale for Muslims to want to support it rather than a right wing party that is not too good at inclusion.

The big question is why include religious makeup in any analysis of voting intentions in any election but while the question is valid I’ll not rush to criticise The Times – at least not without thought on this occasion. Could have presented its report differently? Possibly.

A Labour spokesman is quoted:

“The white working class vote is going west, but things seem to be going well among the Asian vote,” one shadow cabinet minister said. “A win is a win, even if it is seconds before the whistle, with a flat ball.”(1)

Apparently:

Senior Labour figures acknowledge there has been a surge in support for Ukip among white voters in the constituency …

It seems that hitherto traditional potential Labour voters are drifting over to UKIP – a party which despite its protestations to the contrary attracts an ultra-right extremist following that is less than sympathetic towards Muslims and Islam. A not small number of UKIP prospective parliamentary candidates have shown anti-Muslim sentiments.

The UKIP party leader seemingly draws large crowds. On November 30th, he tweeted “Big crowd in Leeds on #SayNoEUTour. Let’s Leave EU instead of having open borders with Turkey.” I have to be careful not to take this out of context but Turkey is a Muslim country and many people in Western Europe certainly have issues with Islam and Muslims.

There is no doubt that many people in the Western world claim that the West has a Judeo-Christian heritage – an expression that marginalises Islam and points to Islamophobia (a genuine fear of Islam typically rooted in ignorance).

I wonder if a headline highlighting the shift of traditionally left wing voters to a seemingly ultra-right wing party would have worked in The Times. Why would Muslims not want to support Labour? Surely Labour is an inclusive party.

Surely community leaders, opinion formers or role models, such as the senior editors at The Times and, for that matter, leaders of secular political parties need to be worried that anti-Muslim sentiment is a concern. Much has become “institutionalised”. Much is now “normalised”. Much has passed the “Dinner Table Test” identified by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi in 2011.

Oldham demographics

In passing this graphic attracted my attention for many different reasons. The one that is really eye-catching is that the proportion of people with Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds total 17.4%. The proportion of Muslims in the constituency is 24.58%. Some Blacks will be Muslim and a substantial chunk of Others will also be Muslim. The figures suggest that a decent number of Whites must also be Muslim. What does that say? For sure they will mostly not be extremist or radicalised.

Community leaders, including journalists, need to be careful not to reinforce stereotyping when discussing demographics.


 

(1) Hopefully the “flat ball” refers to its deflation after the haemorrhaging of the tradition white vote and not a reference to the calibre of the Asian vote.