Covid19: Halal Meat is essential. So why aren’t our suppliers operating? / Khadro Mohamed

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In Arabic the word Halal roughly translates to ‘permissible’ or ‘allowed’ meaning that, under Islamic Law, only foods that are considered Halal are allowed to be consumed by Muslims. Newtown, a vibrant town in the heart of Wellington, is lucky enough to have two Halal meat suppliers on the busy Riddiford Street. But, as per the level 4 lockdown rules, both Halal suppliers must close since they don’t meet the ‘essential services’ criteria.

For many minorities throughout the country of Aotearoa, drawing attention to issues that are specific to ourselves is a rather daunting task. Because what will it mean if Muslims are once again the centre of attention? What will it mean for our community if we are once again dominating the conversation?

For many, it means exposing oneself to racially charged abuse and Islamophobia. It’s only been one year since the events of March 15th unfolded in Christchurch and New Zealand was exposed to the violence of Islamophobia and racism that had gone unchecked in our country for so long. So why are members of this community still so afraid to voice their concerns?

Although there are many brands that sell Halal meat that are stocked by supermarkets, like Tegal and Silver Fern Farms, they’re also extremely popular (and pricey) brands that fly off the shelves quickly. And since many supermarkets do not have a designated halal sections it means that halal and non-halal meats are mixed in together. For members of the community who do not speak English finding halal products in large supermarkets is a difficult task—which is why Halal butchers are so popular.

So, this begs the question—why aren’t halal meat suppliers considered essential services? And if Halal stores are not essential services, then what is considered essential? With countdown removing their ‘two per person’ restriction on alcohol, nicotine products still stocked in all supermarkets, and liquor stores in West Auckland remaining open during the lockdown, why are Muslims left off the list? How would non-Muslim Kiwi’s react to a country without their beloved alcohol or limited access to meat?

So, what does this mean for Muslims all over the country? With Ramadan (an entire month of fasting that Muslims observe yearly) less than 20 days away, going without Halal meat for many families means a drastic change in food preparation and overall diet. Essentially, many of us will have to go full vegetarian.

So, what is a more reasonable request: asking Muslims all over the country to go without meat throughout the month of Ramadan, or simply expanding our ‘essential services’ list to include Halal butchers?

And yet there is also another issue we need to examine, that of Islamophobia, and how it has prevented the Muslim community from vocalizing their concerns around this issue. So, a year from the Christchurch terror attack, what are we also doing as a country to continue to confront racism and Islamophobia? If members of the Muslims community are scared to speak out, in fear of exposing themselves to more abuse, how far have we really come since March 15th

Khadro Mohamed is a recent graduate from Victoria University of Wellington, having studied a 4 year biomedical science degree. Her passion for social justice and giving a voice to those who feel they don’t have one has always been a huge passion of hers. She is also very active in the Wellington community and loves helping improve the lives of those around her. Although she currently works in IT and support, she has dreams to publish and write pieces that directly relate to her experiences for a wider audience of people across NZ.

(P.S If you would like to support this kaupapa, please consider writing to your local MP and asking that they consider allowing Halal Suppliers to operate. You could also write directly to the Prime Minister by emailing her here. Or write directly to the Epidemic Response Committee by emailing it’s chair Simon Brides here.)

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