Challenging Ritual Slaughter and Religious Prejudice

First they came for ritual slaughter and I said nothing; anti-theism is just a cover for bigotry and prejudice against an ethical and religious minority. How do you counter such a narrative by Mo Ansar, when twitter is a wash with prejudiced tweets? Richard Dawkins in particular is used as an example as Tell Mama went to town on. Tell Mama, a group “Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks”, described some of the people Dawkins retweeted as belonging to anti-muslim groups, and Dawkins suggesting that Islam is a loathsome religion using lazy stereotypes to back up. Forget he subsequently tweeted it was for him about the choice of women to decide to dress how they please. The damage was done as social media commentators got to work.

Dawkins is the lightening rod to go to when he tweets, and I am inclined to agree with Brendan O’Neil. Twitter brings out immediately to the public, private initial thoughts that might not usually see the light of day. They make perfect sense to the writer, but the reader fills in the blanks that will be missing in a 140 character tweet. A tweet that is meant to be about women being able to freely chose whether they wear mini skirts or burqas in Kabul suddenly becomes analysed as lacking historical context (it is a tweet not an essay). I am not sure if Dawkins could entirely avoid how his detractors will use his tweet, but he does usually clarify what he means. Maybe just thinking how it might play out might help both him and making the secular argument.

The claims and dictates of a faith are there to be debated as any other idea. Religious freedom is designed to allow such debates, but it is also about allowing people to exercise their conscience in matters of faith free from state coercion – the liberty not to suffer prejudice from other people, and to be treated as an equal citizen with the same rights.

It is useful not to pretend that Wahhabi or the Salafi movement speaks for all Muslims. We know all Muslims are not prohibited from all you can eat buffets because of a Saudi fatwa for example. It can be useful to examine alternative thoughts within religious thinking to remember that theology is not homogeneous. Take the stunning of animals:

“The main counsel of Islam in the slaughter of animals for food is to do it in the least painful manner. All the Islamic laws on the treatment of animals, including the method of slaughter, are based in all conscience on “the spirit” of compassion, fellow-feeling and benevolence:


“Allah, Who is Blessed and Exalted, has prescribed benevolence toward everything and has ordained that everything be done in the right way; so when you must kill a living being, do it in the proper way – when you slaughter an animal, use the best method and sharpen your knife so as to cause as little pain as possible.” (The Sahih Mulsim, 2:156. Also Al-Taaj fi Jaami al-Usool, Vol. 3, p. 110, Cairo Edition. Also Al-Faruo min-al-Kafi, p. 2, and others.)


Failure to stun animals before slaughter causes them pain and suffering. Muslims should give serious thought to whether this is cruelty (Al-Muthiah). If so, then surely the meat from them is unlawful (Haram), or at least, undesirable to eat (Makruh). [Source]

The new President of the British Veterinary Association John Blackwell raised the discussion on animal welfare terms:

‘I don’t think an outright ban is a long way off, there is enough of a view that this practice is inhumane and causes suffering at the time of death… we have tried to keep it out of the religious sphere. It is not an attack on religious faith, it is a view we have taken on animal welfare.’ [Source]

You might have missed all this when reading the debate as it played out last week, that we are looking at the best way of slaughtering an animal with the most compassion and the least amount of pain. A welfare argument that coincides with a religious view to use the best way available now in slaughter. Yet some of those opposed to stunning, claimed this was a slippery slope to genocidal intent on religious believers. 

We are still in living memory of such an atrocity having happened in Europe, but it is a nonsense to suggest concern for animal welfare hides such sinister intent. Shameful too. When it comes to a choice of a religious belief or the physical pain a sentient conscious entity feels my humanity must be moved by welfare arguments first. If we can reduce suffering it is ethical to do so; a moral imperative to act.

God will understand such an argument. If not, why call them God?

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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