Monday, 16 May 2011

mission accomplished

i've had a bit of a break from posting, parting forced due to blogger being down last week. i found that really frustrating, but i'm sure i'm not the only one.

today i gave a speech to a "sea of faith" group in hamilton. it was during work hours, so included mostly senior citizens. i expected it to be challenging, as these things often are, but there was one fellow who came prepared to harangue me. he gave quite a little rant, full of the usual nonsense about islam being incompatible with freedom. but then he went off on a tangent, and blamed muslims for forcing halal meat on the general population, and forcing everyone to pay for halal certification which funds are then apparently used to build mosques and propagate the faith.

i listened to him quite calmly, because i knew once he finally shut up, i could give him a very good response. but the group of people there were quite insulted on my behalf and made some attempts to shut him down. i did advocate for him to be able to say his piece, mostly because i wanted the chance to respond to it all, and to show the ignorance and bigotry for what it was. i guess it's a strategy called giving a person enough rope to hang themselves (oops, a violence metaphor, just proves all of us are terrorists, right?!).

on the subject of freedom, i gave him a little history lesson of the plurality of islamic society under many rulers, and the refuge sought by communities fleeing from persecution in europe and managing to live peaceful life under muslim rule.

as for the halal issue, i had to ask him who was forcing our meat producers to sell to malaysia, kuwait and other muslim countries? it's not like anyone has held a gun to the heads of sheep & beef farmer or the meat industry organisations and forced them to sell. nz as a country was forced to divesify because mother england turned her back on us in order to enter the EEC.

it's not like these countries need nz meat - the australians and south americans would love to take over our halal meat trade & the only people who would suffer are nz'ers. i told him that if he were to tell any farmer that they should no longer sell to a muslim market, he was likely to get a slap on the face (oops, second violence metaphor, this is looking bad). in any case, i don't think he'd get a consensus from nz'ers to reduce our standard of living because he personally objects to eating halal meat.

in order to sell to these markets, plants needed certification. the buying countries insist on certification, which includes spot checks on the halal plants throughout the country amongst other things. this is a service that costs money to provide. it requires an infrastructure in terms of a functioning business premisis, management and organisation. the meat industry is being charged for a vital service, and as a private business, i can't see the problem with there being a profit component. we don't complain when any other private enterprise makes a profit, but somehow a muslim enterprise is supposed to take none?

i should have told him that if he wanted to be sure he wasn't eating halal meat, he should stick to eating pork. but that would have been facetious.

actually, i can understand the thing about not wanting to eat meat that has had some kind of religious process or ritual involved with it. but to blame the muslim community for somehow forcing this on everyone? not so much. the solution is simple: demand the meat industry to provide adequate and accurate labelling on their meat. i don't think that would be too difficult, though i bet the industry would complain. and i know there are plants that don't do halal slaughter, becasue they also process pork at the same plant. i can't imagine it would be too difficult for those plants to provide labelling on their meat.

the problem would be that the plants who do halal slaughter wouldn't want to be losing out on the local market. and i think we all know that there are plenty of people who would avoid meat they knew was halal, not because of their personal religious beliefs, but out of sheer bigotry.

in any case, i don't know if i convinced this particular person that his view of the world was a little skewed. but i did get a lot of positive feedback from the other people who had attended. at least they all got to hear answers to the stuff they probably hear in discussions every day and accept without question. at least they were presented with a different view of the world and challenged out of their comfort zones. in which, i can say "mission accomplished" (oops, does that count as a violent metaphor...?)


Julie said...

Sounds like a challenging situation handled well. Go you!

stargazer said...

thanx julie! i'm quite used to facing difficult questions, having done heaps of public speaking, and i actually prefer that people ask stuff that's bothering them so that it *can* be challenged. but i have to say, this was an angle i hadn't come across before!