It's Not Just America: Halal 'Outrage' in the UK

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A reader writes from England:

>>>Sadly, the kind of "permissible" bigotry which appears to be gaining ground on your side of the ocean is common currency here in the UK, too.

Yesterday's Sun (for those lucky enough to be uninitiated, Murdoch's UK mass-market daily and an organ with a well-deserved reputation for having its finger pretty accurately on the murkier end of the nation's id) carried this headline: "Outrage over halal meat.". The gist: some restaurants had the temerity to serve halal without telling customers.

I can kinda understand that, from a "choice" point of view, restaurants should be coming clean on this one. But "outrage"?

As so often with this sort of thing, the only sensible way of reading the piece - it seemed to me - was mentally to swap the word "halal" for "kosher" and then try to imagine if it would have warranted either a full-page story or the word "outrage".

Somehow, I doubt it.

(Which, in a way, is an advance: if the same paper with the same mores had been publishing between the wars, I fear it wouldn't have had much trouble treating Jews the same way, as may have done some of the UK's more pro-Hitler papers in the 30s. But that's just swapping one bogeyman for another.)<<<

Full-page image from the Sun, including somewhat grisly large photo, after the jump.

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The story is cast in familiar Fleet Street "we are a nation of animal-lovers" terms, ostensibly emphasizing cruelty to the slaughtered creatures. But as the reader points out, it is hard to imagine that a  story about "secret" kosher butchery would get the same treatment -- even though halal and kosher slaughtering rituals are basically the same. (Each requires slitting the animal's throat, so it bleeds, before it is stunned. Gruesome and tragic, but so is anything involving putting a living being to death -- which is a whole separate topic, and as it happens the subject of my first Atlantic article in the mid-1970s, based on a visit to the largest slaughterhouse in the world.)

Again, as an exercise, I think it is useful to try inserting the term "the Jews" or "the blacks" into any statement about "the Muslims" these days and see how the resulting formulation sounds. If it sounds bad, that's not final proof that the statement is wrong, since objective circumstances differ; but it's a worthwhile test. T-N Coates has more on this parallel here.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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