Halal: not about food but fear of difference

Indignation about animal welfare is masking something a lot more insidious, argues Elizabeth Day:

We are in the grip of a moral panic about Islam. Muslims have become, like single mothers or benefit scroungers before them, a totemic symbol of our nastiest fears. As with all forms of prejudice, it is insidious, lurking in the shadows like noxious gas. But it is there if you look for it, if you are attuned to the vocabulary.

The term “takeover” is used again and again – in Birmingham, for instance, where 25 schools are currently being investigated amid allegations of a “hardline Islamist plot” even though the leader of Birmingham City Council is on record as saying he believes no such plot exists. It is there when newspapers run snidely worded articles on Muhammad being a popular boy’s name and it is there when fears are whipped up of a “Muslim majority” existing by 2050.

We should not conflate one issue (the provenance of our meat) with something much more unpleasant (our fear of otherness). Because for all the professed concern around what it means to eat halal meat, there is a deeper, more menacing undertow to the national debate. And that is the most unpalatable thing of all.

Observer, 11 May 2014