This is succinctly and superbly stated: “Let’s rediscover the virtue of choice. Of course Muslims should be free to have halal meat, and the rest of us should be free to demand non-halal meat – and to watch edgy plays and read blasphemous books. That’s how a modern democracy works: we tolerate minority faiths, and we also allow full freedom to dissent from those faiths, and to dodge and even mock their practices.” But this principle is rapidly being lost, in the U.S. as well as in Britain, amid a chorus of charges of “Islamophobia” leveled at anyone who dares look askance at the wholesale capitulation to Sharia by Pizza Express and others. The very idea that I am thought of as a “hate group leader” and am banned from Britain for defending the virtue of choice as Brendan O’Neill explains it here, as opposed to a surrender to Islamic supremacist demands, shows how bad things have gotten. And they’re going to get worse.
“My compulsory halal pizza is hard to swallow,” by Brendan O’Neill, Telegraph, May 8, 2014:
It turns out I am a regular consumer of halal meat. Despite being a godless former Catholic who would rather chew tin foil than read the Koran, I’ve been tucking into animals slaughtered in accordance with Islamic tradition. How come? It’s Pizza Express’s fault. I’m a fan of Pizza Express, especially its Pollo ad Astra pizza, and on Wednesday it was revealed that all of Pizza Express’s chicken is halal. So all those cajun-spiced pieces of plump white flesh I’ve been scoffing came from birds that had their throats slit while they were still alive as someone chanted “Allahu akbar” three times (though Pizza Express insists they are all stunned first).
Do I mind? Not particularly, but only because I’m not into the whole animal cruelty issue. All meat is a slaughtered beast, so it seems pointless to worry about how the creature in question was done in. But I can understand why others feel rattled by the revelation.
Rather than give its customers a choice over whether to have halal bird or more ethically bumped-off bird, Pizza Express served halal to everyone, without even telling them. The thinking seems to be that it’s better to make every Brit eat halal meat than it is to risk one Muslim accidentally eating non-halal meat.
The food-related sensitivities of 4.8 per cent of the British population should apparently trump the right of the other 95 per cent to choose whether to chomp birds cut up before death or after death. We’re entering an era of default halal, where more and more meat is made Muslim-friendly, just in case – in case a Muslim should eat a non-Islamic chicken wing and kick up a storm.
The sandwich shop Subway has also gone default halal, dishing up halal-only meat in 185 of its stores in the UK and taking ham and bacon off the menu. What about those of us who might want a delicious bit of pig-flesh in our 6in sarnie? Apparently our wishes come a poor second to the Muslim minority’s religious preferences. Many schools have gone default halal, too. Last year it was revealed that three quarters of schools in one London borough now feed their pupils halal grub only.
Social norms seem to be remoulding themselves around the concerns of a very small section of British society. The majority’s eating habits are being brought into line with those of a minority.
Yet anyone who criticises the phenomenon of default halal risks being branded an Islamophobe. Yesterday’s Guardian was scathing of critics of Pizza Express’s crafty feeding of halal chicken to all its patrons. This was a simple case of food outlets making their products more “acceptable” in a “changing Britain”, it said. This is a newspaper whose columnists bore on about where their food comes from. Yet as soon as someone says, “You know what, I think I’ll pass on that chicken that had its throat cut while it was still conscious”, the Guardian accuses them of being Muslim-haters. Imagine if every Strada in Britain secretly started smothering its dishes in cheese from a settlement in the West Bank? Bien pensant types would be amassing Molotov cocktails.
The argument now seems to be that if you don’t want to eat halal meat then you’re Islamophobic. In short, not being a Muslim is now an act of Islamophobia. Strewth.
The new era of default halal tells a fascinating story about cultural sensitivity in the 21st century. It reveals that it isn’t necessarily Muslim communities that are super-sensitive; rather it’s mainstream society itself – modern Britain, us – that increasingly feels the need to tiptoe around minority groups for fear, usually misplaced, that if we rile them they’ll go crazy.
So there haven’t been mass Muslim marches demanding that Pizza Express serve halal-only meat. Just as no Islamist uprising was required for the Barbican in London recently to cut from a play some dialogue it thought might be offensive to Muslims.
Instead, in each case, it was a pre-emptive fear of Muslim reaction, an internally generated panic about what might happen if a Muslim ate non-halal meat or watched a non-PC play, that encouraged institutions to dish up blessed meat and safe theatre only. Muslims aren’t holding modern Britain to ransom. No, modern Britain, unsure of itself, constantly exercises cultural caution, rewriting plays, curriculums and menus to placate what it perceives to be moody minorities who must never suffer any sort of emotional hurt.
Let’s rediscover the virtue of choice. Of course Muslims should be free to have halal meat, and the rest of us should be free to demand non-halal meat – and to watch edgy plays and read blasphemous books. That’s how a modern democracy works: we tolerate minority faiths, and we also allow full freedom to dissent from those faiths, and to dodge and even mock their practices.