Monday, January 31, 2011

Crazies Threaten Us All

Apparently the readers of World Net Daily have really, really easy problems. So easy that, having dealt with all other issues that could possibly come up in their lives, they've decided to go looking for nonexistent outrages to complain about. WND is happy to help, especially if it involves making crap up about Muslims.

Case in point:
Are you eating food sacrificed to idols?
All you guys that make fun of mevushaling wine, take notice! Apparently Zeus and the gang have gotten a real boost from this whole Percy Jackson thing and they're back in prime time, gaining new strength after each idolatrous libation! The time to act is nigh! Start looting the stores and replacing all the Cianti with Magen David.

... Oh wait, hang on. Turns out it's dumber than that.
When you bite into a delicious pizza, succulent sandwich or luscious lamb chops, are you possibly eating food that has been sacrificed to idols?
I suppose... how exactly does one sacrifice a pizza?
An outspoken American pastor says yes, and he's sounding the alarm for Christians to be aware of the Islamic influence he calls "backdoor Shariah" now nibbling its way across the fruited plain.
Judging by the unfortunate puns, even the writer of this hit piece can't take the pastor seriously.
At issue, says Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Wash., is eating food that's "halal," in other words "lawful" or "permitted" for the Muslim diet. 
El Shaddai ministries? Really? WHY?
Muslims join many Jews and some Christians in avoiding the consumption of certain animals such as pigs and birds of prey, but those of the Islamic faith also have their meat blessed in the name of their god, Allah.
"From the Christian standpoint, Allah would be an idol," Biltz told WND.
How do you figure? What's the textual evidence for that? AFAIK, Allah is another name for the same diety. That's not idolatry, that's translation.
In a sermon last weekend which he posted online, Biltz explained, "In order for it to be halal, they have to slaughter the animal facing Mecca ... and they have to say this prayer about Allah is great and greater than all other gods. Muslims can only eat food that is halal, that has been sacrificed to their idol, Allah ... and with Allah's name prayed over it."
But again, that's not idolatry if you believe that Allah and the "God" of the Bible are the same, which has historically been the Muslim position. You may believe that this is not true, but from the Islamic perspective, saying that prayer is not a way to dump on the Christian god. It's talking about the same personality.
"You could be eating beef, chicken, etc., offered up to Allah and not even know it. I can just imagine at a Passover Seder the caterer unbeknownst to anyone is serving halal meat! It could be on your pizza without you knowing it, or at your favorite restaurant. People don't realize they could be eating meat sacrificed to idols!"
Hey stupid, why can't you leave us out of this?

Ok, let's work this one through. If you're having a seder, you are either keeping kosher or not. If you are, there is a 99.9% chance that your food is most certainly NOT halal. If you're eating non-kosher, I suppose it's a possibility... but it's likely you don't care. See how that works? No outrage, no issue. Move on.
He notes New Testament instructions specifically warning Christians:
"Stay away from food that has been offered to idols (which makes it unclean), any kind of sexual sin, eating animals that have been strangled, and blood." (Acts 15:20, New Century Version)
"As for the Gentile Christians, all we ask of them is what we already told them in a letter: They should not eat food offered to idols, nor consume blood, nor eat meat from strangled animals, and they should stay away from all sexual immorality." (Acts 21:25 New Living Translation)
Hang on, NOW Christians are going to start being dietary literalists? A little late to the party, guys. You'll ignore the myriad of Old Testament passages about what to eat, but no way you're going to eat idolatrous pot roast! Incidentally, if you're worried about eating meat from strangled animals, here's a question: how do you think we kill fish? Unless your local fisherman is tasering them or using a cool speargun, they're getting lifted out of the water and suffocating without air. Sounds like strangling to me.

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot, this is an excuse to yell about Muslims. You know how I get off track.
Biltz quotes directly from a Muslim-run site titled, "The Islamic Guidelines to Slaughtering Animals" to let Christians know some of the procedures involved in making sure meat is halal.
Those bastards! How dare they explain their customs to others. The last time I was this offended was when I was in a shul and noticed a sign that asked people to "Please remove your tallis before going into the restroom." Who are they to tell me how they do things?
Biltz is also publicizing a Muslim website called which bills itself as the world's largest guide to halal restaurants and products. Consumers wondering where they can purchase halal food simply need to click on their geographic location.
Wow, someone better hope we never get on this guy's bad side. I imagine that sites like the Kosher Food Interface will not fare well.
"This is coming to a store near you. This is all over," says Biltz, who is especially concerned about restaurants serving halal meats.
"At a restaurant, you're not going to know [if the food is halal] unless you ask," he said. "I think we need to be aware of these things because they don't want Christians to know because they just want to sell it and get it out there. ... A lot of people don't want you to know it's going all over the world. Christians are upset as they're finding out about this because Christians are saying, 'How come you didn't tell me?'"
Maybe they assumed you wouldn't care... you know, because there's no good reason for you to care. Halal meat is not "unclean" for Christians to eat. Yes, of course you should have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want. But there's a not-so-subtle undercurrent of xenophobia here that is really quite creepy. It's like Blitz is blaming Muslims for having the audacity to start their own businesses to feed themselves, or for becoming a big enough market that food companies are starting to cater to them.
If someone is shopping in a supermarket, there are numerous symbols that help consumers know if a product is indeed certified as halal-compliant, some of which can be seen here:

Hmm, a list of logos that pretends to be for "informational" purposes but which is really designed to facilitate a xenophobic boycott/freak-out? Where have I seen something like this before? Oh yeah:

And here's the thing: the reasoning between the Kosher Tax myth and the crap Blitz is spewing out are closer than you might realize at first blush. Both are predicated on foundational misunderstandings about another culture's dietary laws and religious teachings about food. Both imagine that outsiders are somehow being harmed if they eat kosher or halal products, and that even if they're not, the mere fact that businesses are catering to them is some sort of threat or violation of their own rights. Both arguments masquerade as just wanting to "inform" people while actually sowing misinformation, distrust, and division between people. Both depend on turning "the other" into someone totally foreign from "us real Americans", or whatever. What's new (and worse) is that now the trope of "creeping Shariah" is being used to suggest that wherever a Subway starts serving halal food, a terrorist training camp can't be far behind.

Sadly, this crap isn't restricted to just American wackos like Blitz or most of WND's readership:
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association, said Americans need to look at what's been taking place in Britain when it comes to the expansion of Islamic food standards.
"Folks in hospitals, schools, and pubs across the U.K. have been eating food that has first been blessed in the name of the demon-God Allah but know nothing about it," Fischer wrote in a column last fall.
"So Christians in the U.K. have been eating meat over which Islamic rituals have been pronounced, and most of the lamb sold there has had an Islamic prayer said over it at the point of slaughter. ... The prayer? 'Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar,' which means 'In the name of Allah, who is the greatest.' Some chicken butchers in the U.K. slaughter chickens using an automatic circular saw while a tape recorder intones the Islamic prayer. I kid you not."
Um, ok? And? I don't understand what I'm supposed to be offended about. Is it the saw? The tape recorder? I don't get it.
Biltz stresses he's not against halal food, halal stores or Muslims, but says "Christians may want to know that they're eating halal food. It's not so much a religious thing, but an awareness thing."
Yeah, and I'm a magical flying salmon. (Now offered in a tasty Halal version!)

1 comment:

The back of the hill said...

Good post.
Long, but good.

FYI: legal issue in Malaysia about Christians using the term 'Allah', which peeved the Muslim fundamentalists, was decided in favour of the Christians. Allah, it turns out, simply means 'God'.

They could've also used dewata or batara, even Sang Hyang (simply an appellation of the divine), but those have Hindu connotations.
Allah is the connotationless word. Legally totally neutral.