In the News: Ḥalāl Food

A few weeks ago, Germany’s Interior Ministry apologized after serving pork at a conference on Islam in Berlin. Most of the attendees at the conference were apparently Muslim, and under Islamic law, pork is not considered permissible (ḥalāl) to eat.

Like other aspects of Islamic law, there are some differences among Islamic legal scholars (and schools of Islamic jurisprudence) about what types of meat are ḥalāl. Some of these differences are reflected in SHARIAsource’s collection of fatwās from the Indonesian Council of Ulama (the country’s top clerical body): for example, see the fatwās on whether snails and frogs are ḥalāl.

In the US, ḥalāl meat has been the subject of several court cases involving the constitutional rights of Muslim prisoners. In two 2013 cases from California and Maryland, for example, the prisoners argued that the failure to provide ḥalāl meat as part of their daily meals violated their rights to Free Exercise and Equal Protection. The courts pointed out, however, that Islamic law does not require Muslims to eat meat; therefore, as long as the prisons offered a vegetarian meal option of equivalent nutritional value, the prison was not forcing anyone to go against their religious beliefs. (In a previous blog post, SHARIAsource US Editor Abed Awad explained how eating ḥalāl food was a “sincerely held religious belief” for many Muslims in the context of a similar court case filed by the ACLU in 2016.)

Meanwhile, in China, ḥalāl food has presented a political challenge for the government because of increasing calls for “legislation that would provide greater controls over how halal food is produced, packaged, transported, and advertised” in a socialist legal system. According to SHARIAsource China Editor Matthew Erie, “the future of such legislation is an open question.”