By Hussein Rashid, Religion Dispatches
I remember growing up that I could not eat Oreo cookies. They had lard, which is forbidden to believing Muslims. Instead, we had Hydrox cookies, which were kosher, clearly marked by a little “k” in a circle. What I did not realize at the time was that it was an insidious Jewish plot to institute halacha in America, and thereby subject us to rule of a foreign law. The ultimate goal is to turn us all Jewish.
If this story sounds outlandish, paranoid, and more than a little anti-Semitic, it is only the outgrowth of following the logic of Robert Spencer and his ilk. According to them, the fact that Campbell’s Soup Canada is a introducing a series of halal soups is a sign that Muslims are taking over the U.S. and imposing shari’ah to make everyone Muslim. The Revealer has a great series on the (mis)uses of the term shari’ah that points out that there is no one thing called shari’ah, and it does not mean what its popular critics think it means. My friend Peter Bebergal has a piece on how the same sort of simplistic thinking has infected the way we talk about “kosher.” You cannot talk about the tradition if you do not know the tradition.
I think the illogic of this group is a fascinating thing to follow. One country, Canada, to which most neo-con Islamophobes have an allergic reaction because of its alleged socialist tendencies, has a company that is making a business decision. There is an underserved market that Campbell’s can capitalize on and make a lot of money.
For Spencer et al., this is a sign that US civil liberties are at risk, even though we are not supposed to look at the actions of foreign companies/countries in deciding what is actually happening in America, unless it’s for the purposes of bad analogies or to deny Consitutional protections (see Gingrich’s comments on churches in Mecca). The response to this outrage is for Americans to cross the border into Canada, and either demand a statist intervention into the free market, or otherwise interfere with capitalism to make it difficult for a company to make a profit. In other words, enter another country to fight against the things that make America great in the eyes of these protesters.
This movement of jafis (an old Arabic word that translates roughly as Just Another Frakkin’ Islamophobe) is simply continuing to prove how inconsistent, ignorant, illogical, and anti-Muslim they are. By applying their logic to the idea of kosher, we would consider it anti-Semitic, so why is this logic acceptable when it comes to halal? The availability of kosher food is not an attempt to force Jewish law on us, or to turn us all Jewish. While I do miss my Hydrox, I am still too fond of my lobster rolls and chicken parm subs to ever keep kosher.
To read more articles, visit Religion Dispatches.
Hussein Rashid is a native New Yorker and Proud Muslim. Currently an instructor at the Center for Spiritual Inquiry at Park Avenue Christian Church and based at Hofstra University, he is deeply committed to interfaith work and is passionate about teaching. He believes we need to start talking more intelligently about Islam specifically, and religion generally.