Whole Foods is among the growing number of U.S. companies offering Islamically permissible “halal” products at its stores.
When you bite into a delicious pizza, succulent sandwich or luscious lamb chops, are you possibly eating food that has been sacrificed to idols?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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!”
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)
Some evidences regarding the necessity of pronouncing the name of Allah when slaughtering:
a) Allah Most High says: “Eat not of (meats) over which Allah’s name has not been pronounced. That would be impiety.” (al-An’ am, V. 121)
The above text is clear in determining the necessity of taking the name of Allah when slaughtering, and the unlawfulness of the animal when it is left out, as the major Qur’anic commentators explain.
b) Allah Almighty says: “They ask you what is lawful for them (as food). Say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure and what you have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by Allah. Eat what they catch for you and pronounce the name of Allah over it.” (al-Ma’idah, V.4)
Biltz is also publicizing a Muslim website called Zabihah.com 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.
Costco is among the growing number of American retailers offering halal food to the public.
“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?’”
The Chicago-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, or IFANCA, agrees everyone should be properly informed about food classification, but its spokeswoman said she’s taken aback when she hears some of the rhetoric about Muslims.
“Of course it bothers me personally that my own religion is not portrayed very positively in the media,” said Maria Omar, IFANCA’s director of media relations.
“Naturally, [Muslims] don’t believe they’re worshipping idols. It is unfortunate that some organizations malign [halal]. I want to change this perpective. It’s just a food market need for certain people, and if Americans can benefit by providing this need, all the better.”
Omar says part of the ignorance problem regarding the status of meat has to do with the global marketplace and the countries of origin for food.
“A lot of times, when you are importing food from large meat-producing regions such as New Zealand or Denmark, these meats are already slaughtered in the Islamic guidelines,” she said. “A lot of their trade is with the Middle East, and they don’t know where everything is going. All meat they export is halal standard. If it happens to go to the U.S. or England, nobody knows, since it’s not always advertised or labeled.”
Omar added: “Perhaps what should be talked about more here is less about halal, and more about food-industry standards for labeling food properly. Certainly, if someone does not want to have halal, they should be clearly informed that the food product is halal. All consumers deserve the right to be informed of what they are eating.”
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:
Numerous logos inform consumers if a product is halal-certified.
Connecticut-based Subway, which has more than 23,000 sandwich shops in the U.S. and nearly 34,000 worldwide, is proud to be offering halal food in communities where there’s a demand for it.
Sandwich giant Subway is heavily promoting its halal-certified meats in the United Kingdom, where there has been greater demand compared to the United States.
Subway spokesman Les Winograd told WND: “The way we look at it from a business point of view is here’s a group of individuals who traditionally cannot eat out. They cannot eat your average name-brand fast food. When they travel, they have to bring their own food. They’re consumers, they’re buying things. We want to be able to tell them, ‘There’s a safe place for you to eat.’ That’s definitely worth something in their eyes. Here’s a brand that cares about me, too. It’s kind of an untapped market, so building brand equity is a good thing.”
Winograd says he can think of only two franchises in America, both in New Jersey, that have offered halal food, and says, “I really haven’t seen any complaints here in this country.”
He explained there’s a much greater demand in the U.K., where there are more than 100 halal locations out of some 1,000 total franchises.
Winograd says those outlets go out of their way to make sure customers know halal food is being served there.
“Everything is identified,” he said. “Each store has a seal in the window, so you know when you’re walking in that everything is halal.”
Pastor Biltz is not the only one raising concerns.
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.”
In 2009, Domino’s Pizza enraged many British customers when it completely removed pork from its pizzas in favor of halal-only meat at three of its branches in Birmingham, Bradford and Blackburn. By August of last year, the firm pulled a U-turn and went back to its original menu due to poor sales.
Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s, says it was a small experiment that didn’t work, and no Domino’s franchise in America is considering going the halal route.
“We don’t have plans at this time,” he told WND. “It’s not really something that has been on our radar screen, to tell you the truth.”
He noted cost is a major concern, explaining, “You’d almost have to have side-by-side stores since things can’t touch other things. Things can’t be baked in the same oven as other things. There’s not enough of a demand for us to consider that.”
Last October, after categorically denying it used any halal meat, fast-food giant McDonald’s admitted selling halal chicken in the U.K. without telling its customers. The poultry was used in popular menu items such as Chicken McNuggets and the McChicken Sandwich in its 1,200 British outlets.
McDonald’s told the Mail on Sunday it was accidental, saying, “some halal chicken has entered our supply chain without our knowledge, and we apologize to our customers for this.”
According to the Associated Press, the worldwide market for Islamically permitted goods has grown to more than half a billion dollars annually, and it notes that in the U.S., McDonald’s and Walmart have now begun selling halal products. Last summer, Whole Foods began selling its first nationally distributed halal food item, frozen Indian entrees called Saffron Road.
The Campbell Soup Company also caused a stir when it recently launched an expanded line of vegetarian soups all certified as halal.
Laura Lee-Blake of Campbell Canada said the products were developed with heavy input from company employees, and she hopes wellness and diversity efforts become a foundational filter for everything the company does rather than being “programs” provided for employees.
Interestingly, the animals acceptable for Muslims to eat are in accordance with numerous Scriptures from the Christian Bible, which also classifies creatures such as pigs, shellfish, those with paws and all reptiles as “unclean,” with God using terms such as “abomination” in Leviticus 11 and “abominable thing” in Deuteronomy 14 to describe them.
Many Christians and Jews are unaware that according to Genesis 7:2, the animals brought aboard Noah’s Ark came aboard in pairs of seven for the “clean” animals, those fit for eating, for a total of 14 each. The “unclean” animals, those not fit for eating, had only a single pair, with a male and female of each species.
Today, Christians are divided on whether or not the food instructions of the Old Testament are still meant to be observed, with some believers abstaining, and others having no problem eating pork products, lobster, shrimp and alligator.
While there are biblical warnings telling people to avoid eating food sacrificed to idols, the apostle Paul also addressed the subject this way:
Should we eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God and no other. According to some people, there are many so-called gods and many lords, both in heaven and on earth. But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we exist for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.
However, not all Christians realize this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t miss out on anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful with this freedom of yours. Do not cause a brother or sister with a weaker conscience to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:4-9, NLT)
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.”
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