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Roundtable

Why No Halal For Sikhs?
The Roundtable Open Forum # 61

by SONNY SINGH

 

 

Like many Sikhs, I grew up eating meat. 

It was something I never really questioned until I was in college and started learning more about the treatment of animals on factory farms and the environmental impact of the meat industry.

But growing up, I never thought about where my spicy deep-fried chicken strips were coming from. Or the living (and dying) conditions of the cow that made up the thinly sliced pieces of meat in my Arby's roast beef sandwich. As long is it wasn't halal, it was all good.

I never understood what 'halal' truly meant, but the message I got from my parents and others in the community went something like this:  Halal is the way Muslims slaughter animals, and it involves killing the animal slowly and painfully. And lots of gushing blood. We Sikhs don't believe in torturing animals, so we don't eat halal meat.

Sound like a familiar story line?

This, of course, contributed to my perception of Muslims as barbaric people who were dirty, had multiple wives and questionable morals, and killed my ancestors during partition. In the context of the messages I received from family and community growing up, the story about halal fit right in - yet another way Muslims are backwards.

This is in stark contrast to how I see Islam and the Muslim community at this point in my life. But I grew up with these messages and stereotypes just like most of my Sikh peers did.

Really, what's all the fuss about halal?  Why aren't Sikhs supposed to eat halal meat?

Section Six of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct) states:

"The undermentioned four transgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided:

"... 2. Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way ..."

The most common argument I usually hear to explain the halal ban is simply that the Rehat Maryada says so.  No disrespect to the Rehat Maryada or the consensus-based process through which it was created in the first half of the 20th Century, but this is not a sufficient reason in and of itself. 

If the lives of our Gurus have taught me anything, it is to think critically, question everything I'm told, and to always keep the love of Waheguru in my heart. So an argument based solely on citation of the Rehat Maryada (which our Gurus were not involved in writing) is not convincing to me.

Another common argument I hear is the aforementioned animal welfare argument: that slaughtering the Muslim way is unnecessarily painful for the animal - it's a slow death and a form of torture. With jhatka meat, on the other hand, the animal is killed swiftly, experiencing minimal pain.

Scientific research reveals a more complicated reality, however.  A 1978 German study found that halal slaughtering actually caused less pain to calves and sheep than slaughtering after the animals were stunned by a captive bolt (the industry standard). 

A more recent New Zealand study, on the other hand, found that stunning reduces the pain of the slaughter. 

However, according to a study cited by the Guardian last year, "90% of animals killed for halal food in 2004 were stunned first. As in mainstream food production, the animal's throat is then cut. So this supposedly sinister method, it seems, is not that different after all."

Research studies aside, the intention of halal (and for Jews, kosher) slaughtering is to minimize pain and suffering to the animal.  The Guardian states:

The definition of halal is anything that is legal or lawful for Muslims. In terms of meat, this can apply to what kind of animal is used (not pigs, for instance) and the way they are killed: an animal must be healthy, the butcher must make a recitation dedicating it to God, and the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe are cut with a single swipe from a sharp knife. As with kosher meat, the idea is that the animal dies immediately and the blood drains away. 

And in fact, if the animal is not killed immediately with a single swipe, it is not considered halal.

Thus, not eating halal because of our concern for animal welfare simply doesn't make sense. If this was our primary concern in our food choices as a community, then I would argue we should talk about a Sikh prohibition of all factory-farmed meats, eggs, and dairy products. Animals on factory farms (or the official term, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs) live in grotesquely unnatural, overcrowded conditions, never seeing the sun or grazing in the grass. Pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics, these animals are treated simply as units of production rather than living beings. There is nothing respectful or humane about the treatment of animals on factory farms, so why are we so concerned about halal and not worried about the cows that become our Big Mac or produce the milk in our cha?

A final explanation of the Sikh ban on halal meat I have often heard is we should not partake in the ritual or sacrificial killing of an animal. Of course, we Sikhs are not proponents of ritual for the sake of ritual:

jaalo aisee reeth jith mai piaaraa veesarai
Burn away those rituals which lead you to forget the Beloved Lord   [GGS:590]

But talk to a devout Muslim or Jew about halal or kosher, and you'll likely find that they think of their respective religion's practice of killing an animal as a necessary means to show respect to the animal and to God, since the animal is a creation of God.  Is saying a prayer and remembering God while ending the life of a living being for the purposes of eating a blind ritual? Even if we don't see it as a necessary step for our own religious practice as Sikhs, I would argue that it is not fundamentally contrary to the Sikh way of life.

Yes, I am raising questions and concerns about a guideline set forth in the Rehat Maryada, and perhaps some readers will take issue with that. But over sixty years after our code of conduct was officially approved by the Panth, don't we owe it to ourselves as a community to continually examine ourselves and ask questions about where we are and where we are going?

From my own observations about the Sikh prohibition of halal meat, it does little to protect the well-being and humane treatment of animals and even less to get us closer to Waheguru. Instead, the prohibition of halal meat spreads misinformation and perpetuates stereotypical and demeaning attitudes about Islam and the Muslim community. While I have heard some say the prohibition is not about halal specifically, but about any sacrificial meat, the Rehat Maryada explicitly singles out "an animal slaughtered the Muslim way."  Rarely do I hear any talk of kosher meat being taboo for Sikhs.

At the heart of Sikhi is Ik Oankar - 'One Divine Light' that shines in all human beings. Waheguru connects us all.  Guru Gobind Singh was always clear that the Khalsa's war was never against Muslims or Islam, but it was against tyranny, which at the time was epitomized by Aurangzeb's empire ... and by a variety of Hindu rajas.

Sadly, many in the contemporary Sikh community - maybe even a majority - have taken home a different message which they have taught to their kids, and their kids taught to their kids, and so on.

When do we stop this legacy and get back to the heart of Sikhi?

Sikhi is arguably one of the most inclusive philosophies of the major world religions.  Yet it seems to me that prohibiting the eating of an "animal slaughtered the Muslim way" serves only to divide.

 

ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM

To our readers: what are your thoughts on this topic?

 

February 23, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Mohkam Singh (Paris, France), February 23, 2011, 9:54 AM.

A good question and a good topic - yes, it is time we re-visit it. But not the way the author has presented it, I'm afraid. His piece is deeply flawed on the basis that it throws all logic to the winds. He cites the Rehat Maryada accurately, but then uses the spurious arguments used by uneducated parcharaks to reject the Maryada. Is there ANY mention of those bases in the Maryada? Of course not. And for good reason ... because those infantile explanations are not Sikhi! Then, the author quotes a bunch of reports, and after acknowledging that they are self-contradictory, then goes on to rely on them in questioning the Rehat Maryada! Bizarre. Muslims have good reasons to promote halal for Muslims. Jews have good reasons to promote kosher for Jews. And Sikhs too have good reasons to promote jhatka as a Sikh practice. If you stop entering the field with a defensive state of mind, and look at each from the practitioner's perspective, each one makes sense - for the respective set of beliefs. For heaven's sake, you can't take things out of context and come up with a hodge-podge of flimsy arguments. A great topic ... but I'm disappointed ... a very sorry intro to it. I hope the discussion will turn a bit logical with the commentators. But, thanks for raising it anyway.

2: Jagmeet Kaur (Amritsar, Punjab), February 23, 2011, 10:10 AM.

The Rehat Maryada is not scripture. It addresses spiritual and religious, social and cultural ... AND political concerns of our collectivity, in the worldly context (miri and piri) that we live in. The jhatka requirement, if you study the learned works on the subject, is for three intertwined reasons: a) Sikhs do not make animal sacrifices (a la Muslim and Hindu practices) or offerings to God or any other entities. b) Sikhs are prohibited from ritualizing food for ANY reason (hence Kosher is not kosher for Sikhs either). c) Sikhs opposed any imposition by other faiths regarding the practice of their own faith. The Mughals were on a do-or-die campaign to convert all on the sub-continent to Islam by enforcing their own practices. One of the ways Sikhs challenged that form of tyranny was point-blank refusing to follow any edict along these lines, one of which was that the subjects should eat only halal meat. On an aside, with the nutty right-wing Hindus in India going the Mughal route in India today, the time has come for us to point-blank - in a similar way - oppose the imposition of any Hindu practices on us. Thus, I eat beef once a month ... as a POLITICAL ACT against a nation that has gone wacko on us again; it has nothing to do with religion! It is a question of survival. Hope this helps to clarify the misleading and purely hearsay stuff cited by the author in his article.

3: Ranjit (Birmingham, United Kingdom), February 23, 2011, 10:19 AM.

Sonny Singh ji: ever had a paper cut? Hurts like mad, doesn't it? Now, how about a slit of the throat? Remember that the Rehat was written by far, far better Sikhs than you or I, so we must try to study the topic thoroughly BEFORE we start looking at alternatives or changes. A Sikh is to eat only jhatka meat.

4: Karam Singh (New York, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 11:00 AM.

It is true that most, if not all, animals killed in the West for meat are stunned to near-death first before anything else is done to them. If that isn't jhatka, I don't know what is. I believe that as far as I am concerned, the meat served in the restaurants here is all jhatka. If someone has read some prayers over it as well, I don't mind it, no matter what they call it: it's still jhatka. It's another matter in, say, India. There, when I'm visiting, I first ensure that it is jhatka. This is not a matter of heaven or hell, of sin or piety ... it's purely a question of sticking to one's principles! And I agree - all Sikhs today must consider eating beef as a political act of defiance. Even if it is once a month or once every year! EVEN if you are otherwise a vegetarian.

5: I. Singh (Chelmsford, MA, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 11:04 AM.

Jagmeet Kaur from Amritsar: I salute you! That is exactly the Sikh spirit. "Eat beef once a month as a political act". Love it! I would add ... eat non-halal beef once a month! :-)

6: Jaspal Singh (India), February 23, 2011, 11:04 AM.

"Sikhs do not make animal sacrifices ..." Jagmeet Kaur ji, have you visited Hazoor Sahib? There you will find goat sacrifice and then making tilak to the shastars of Guru Gobind Singh.

7: Laddi (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), February 23, 2011, 11:30 AM.

Jaspal Singh ji: It is true that such a practice has indeed been reported from Hazoor Sahib. But all of Sikhdom is in agreement that it is an aberration and contrary to Sikhi - obviously, Hindu rituals have been introduced in this gurdwara which is in a region quite remote from Punjab and major Sikh settlements. As such, there is resistance from the local Hindu-to-Sikh converts to discontinuing the obnoxious practice. But the exception only proves the rule. Moreover, your citation of this instance doesn't add to the jhatka and halal discussion. Let's not stray from the main topic, please.

8: Jaz Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 23, 2011, 12:22 PM.

" ... We Sikhs don't believe in torturing animals, so we don't eat halal meat. Sound like a familiar story line? " --- Er ... the short answer, Sonny, is No! Doesn't sound familiar at all. Since the day I knew one thing from another, I knew - because my parents told me - that we Sikhs do not eat ritually killed meat. Sikhs know they don't eat ritually killed meat. Muslims know they don't eat non-halal meat. Jews know they don't eat non-kosher meat. Where's the confusion here? The confusion is you've started off with the wrong reason for not eating halal meat. Instead of finding out the correct reason for your religious requirement, you've chosen to base a whole line of thought on the wrong premise you started from. This whole thing is incredibly silly. You can search high and low but you'll never hear of a Jew or Muslim writing articles calling for the eating of Sikh jhatka meat. Only we are that silly and so weak in faith. But honestly, why would you want to eat an animal killed by invoking God, anyway? What is so holy, pious, spiritual and religious about butchering one of God's creatures? I say that as a committed chicken, beef and lamb eater. But I don't see how the killing and eating of it should be done in the name of God. I don't wish to drag God into my eating habits. And therein lies your answer. That is why Sikhs don't eat halal meat or kosher food.

9: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 12:25 PM.

When in doubt, look to gurbani for the answer. The question should be broadly grouped under eating meat altogether. I think gurbani does not restrict us from eating meat - since the Gurus themselves say what is meat and what are plants, they are both created by God Himself. I think we are so engrossed in finding things with a magnifying glass that we lose perspective of the big picture. May I kindly draw your attention to a verse from Guru Granth Sahib, in whose presence we are all humble: "Fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom. What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?" [GGS:1289-90].

10: Sandeep Singh Brar (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 23, 2011, 1:04 PM.

I love studying the Rehat Maryada and our Ardaas. Although they are living texts that have changed over time, they are also fascinating repositories of our history and traditions. If you study early Rehatnamas, it's fascinating to see the very strong anti-Muslim theme. The Sikhs clearly wanted nothing whatsoever do with Muslim religion practices as they sought to carve out their own identity and religious practices. Although today's Rehat Maryada is pretty tame compared to earlier documents, a couple of examples of rejection of the Muslim religious practices that we can still find in the modern Rehat Maryada are: 1) Forbidden to eat halal meat; 2) Forbidden to smoke tobacco; 3) Forbidden to dye one's beard. The last one is particularly fascinating as at first it does not seem to have any spiritual or health benefit that one can easily make out. Looking closer though, it has a historical link to our past. It was and still is a practice for devout Muslim men to dye their beards, and women their hair, using henna, especially in South Asia (especially if they had completed the Haj). Thus this prohibition makes historical sense as it became an easy way to identify yourself as a Sikh rather than a Muslim, as both groups wore turbans and had beards. The same way, not eating halal meat and not smoking tobacco became easy identifiers of Sikh vs. Muslim identity. As an observation, it's interesting to note that both Muslim and Sikh religions forbid drinking alcohol, yet even the earliest European travel accounts mention that many Sikhs drank (and still do). Why would they ignore one of their basic religious beliefs by being lax in their attitude towards alcohol consumption but be very ardent about rejecting the use of tobacco? Can this strange inconsistent behaviour be another example of trying to do the opposite of the Muslim, a sort of "They don't drink, so I will!" I wonder.

11: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, WA, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 1:37 PM.

There can be several explanations why jhatka is the preferred form of meat. One I like the most is: when Aurangzeb ordered that in the entire land, the only way one was allowed to prepare meat was halal - so Sikhs opposed it. His order was that only Muslim could grow wear a turban, ride a horse, carry weapons, hunt, etc. Sikh reacted against this assault on civil liberties. Sikhs were to live without fear, thus defying the edicts of Aurangzeb.

12: Jaswant Singh (New York, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 2:39 PM.

A corollary to the strict prohibition against animal sacrifices, and to the ritualization of food, in Sikhism, is the unequivocal rejection of the role and power of the priesthood. Both mullahs and rabbis have, as is to be expected, exploited the halal and kosher systems to their own advantage, to the detriment of the masses. Here in New York, for example - and across America - rabbis have created a billion dollar kosher industry, all based on the power stemming from the 'requirement' to obtain approval and a kosher certification. Mercifully, we are free of this process as a result of our rejection of the Halal and similar regimes.

13: Surinder (Massachusetts, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 3:45 PM.

The author is clamouring to reject what is holy to his religion, but gladly adopts what is holy to other religions, without questioning any of it. Great! Question your own faith, but give a free pass to the faiths of others.

14: Brijinder SIngh (New York, U.S.A.), February 23, 2011, 4:05 PM.

I agree with most of the comments above. The Rehat is our temporal authority, much like Guru Granth Sahib is our spiritual authority. The two are intertwined. If you undermine one part of the Rehat, then there is no justification for defending any other part. The Gurus did not write Rehat, but it serves to ensure that their teachings and Sikh philosophy are not manipulated in any way. Sikhi teaches that we should be tolerant of other religions as there are many paths to the same God. Tolerance means respecting each others differences and learning how to co-exist. It does not mean that we should give up our own principles and beliefs. They are what make a Sikh a Sikh. I do not eat halal or kosher. This does not make me anti-Muslim or anti-Jew. It means that, as a Sikh, I believe that ritual killing of animals is wrong and it should not be done in the name of God. The Rehat ensures that this tenet of Sikhi is not open to mis-interpretation. As a medical student, I can tell you that oftentimes victims of puncture wounds or slashes never feel the blade cutting their flesh. They will describe it as a cold sensation. Pain ensues moments after the cut has been made. It is hypothesized that this is a survival mechanism to allow us to escape immediate danger. Cutting someone's throat keeps them alive long enough for them to feel the pain you are inflicting on them. Jhatka preparation severs the spinal cord, which kills the animal before the brain has time to process any pain.

15: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 23, 2011, 7:23 PM.

Guru Gobind Singh asked his Khalsa to refrain from eating "Kuttha", the original term used for an animal killed in accordance with the Muslim law - now referred to as Halal today.

16: Ikjot (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 23, 2011, 7:27 PM.

The author seems to keep referring to the Rehat Maryada in a rather negative way. Let him understand one fact, the Rehat Maryada is based on the teachings of our Gurus, and so does the prohibition of eating halal meat. One of Guru Gobind Singh's hukamnamas calls for Sikhs to not eat halal meat. In the end, the author is not only questioning the Rehat, but is also questioning the words of the Gurus.

17: R. Singh (Canada), February 24, 2011, 12:19 AM.

I see no particular reason to condemn halal wholesale. Meat eating, in whichever form, is a personal choice, except when it is used by some for forcible conversion purposes or merely ritualistic in nature involving sacrificial slaughter, such as Hindus killing goats in Kali temples or comemorating symbolic killing of mahasur (bull-demon), or in deras where blood is used to anoint weapons. In these latter instances, it is clearly against Sikh ethics. In short, we need to revisit our understanding of the issue, for just citing not eating meat just because it was done in a 'Muslim' fashion is hardly a Sikh-like injunction, especially in light of participation of Muslims soldiers of Pir Buddhu Shah in wars of Guru Sahib against the Mughals and Hindu rajas. The verse from gurbani mostly cited is about 'kutha' which is from a shabad condemning hypocrisy of the people, who conformed in public and came home to purify themselves.

18: Jesroshan Singh (Malaysia), February 24, 2011, 12:35 AM.

The Rehat Maryada was written based on the teachings of the Gurus. They did not pen it but other people did, based on the Hukumnamas of the Gurus.

19: M. Kaur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 24, 2011, 2:07 AM.

Being raised in a Muslim country, getting butchers to do custom jhatka-slaughtering has never been easy. Outside, all meat has to be halal for it to be lawfully sold in the first place. In my country, most Sikhs don't bat an eyelid before digging in. The issue is hardly brought up during discussions at all. Most of my friends and family still cannot fathom my observance to this rule. In fact, a Sikh acquaintance even said once: 'It makes no difference how you cut the meat, just eat it'. And therein lies the problem - people see this rule as being shallow, outdated and plain meaningless. The eating of any ritually-slaughtered meat, made as a sacrificial offering or justified as an act of faith/ devotion, is clearly against Sikhi. Just as any other 'ritualistic/ symbolic act of devotion is. To add to the argument, Jagmeet Kaur has rightly pointed out that it also acts as a defiance to imposition of practices of other faiths which happened during times of tyranny in India. This includes both Muslim (halal-ism) and Hindu (balidaan)influences. Sadly though, most Sikhs today have not the slightest inkling of the astoundingly contemporary ideas and fundamentals in Sikhi that reject ritualism in any manner. It was a vision so far ahead of its times and not only did the 'no ritualistic/ sacrificial meat' edict serve to steer us away from empty rituals, but also shed light on issues such as cultural and religious coercion, and how our actions are the actual tools in a protest.

20: Kartar Singh Bhalla (New Delh, India), February 24, 2011, 2:15 AM.

Either killing an animal and eating it is bad or not bad. If it is not bad, it should make no difference how the animal is killed. Non-vegetarians traveling all over the world and dining in restaurants cannot know whether the meat served there is halal, kosher or jhatka. One should either stop eating meat or stop worrying about how it has been killed.

21: Veronica Sidhu (Scotch Plains, New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 24, 2011, 11:11 AM.

Kanwerjeet, Sandeep, Jaswinder, Jaswant - thank you for your reasoned and informative comments.

22: Jaz Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 24, 2011, 12:00 PM.

" Here in New York, for example - and across America - rabbis have created a billion dollar kosher industry." -- Count yourself lucky you don't live in the U.K., Jaswant. Here, we Sikhs are fighting a daily battle against the spread of 'halal' and that's one of the reasons why I find Sonny Singh's article quite silly. Here, the Muslim lobby is so powerful that our children are being forced to eat halal if they want school dinners. Kentucky Fried Chicken is increasingly going halal. Mcdonald's in the heart of the Western world's largest Sikh community (Southall, London, U.K.) is 100% halal. Nandos is increasingly halal. The supermarkets are increasingly going halal. It's really tough here. Each and every day we have to assert our rights and beliefs for the sake of our children. In this battle, here in England, the winner will be the strongest of faith. The Sonny Singhs of this world do our battle no good at all.

23: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.), February 24, 2011, 12:46 PM.

The halal ritual is based on the Biblical Old Testament story where God commanded Abraham to bring his son Issac for sacrifice to please Him. After God was satisfied by Abraham's devotion, he commanded him to stop killing Issac and instead sacrificed a fat lamb in lieu of it. This event is celebrated each time by Muslims and Jews when they kill an animal in their respective ways. Sikhism prohibits sacrifice of animals in this fashion - which is done by Muslims and Jews ostensibly to please God.

24: Brijinder Singh (New York, U.S.A.), February 24, 2011, 1:45 PM.

Sandeep Singh ji: The ban against dyeing your beard is not a reactionary edict against Islamic practice, as you have stated. It is in accordance with the Sikh belief that we should not alter God's design. Under the same principle, we do not cut our hair, get tattoos, or piercings. The color of a man's beard, or a woman's hair changes as they age.

25: Navdeep Gill (United States), February 24, 2011, 2:43 PM.

Hor galat kamm karno Sikh hatdey naheen - sharaab, egoism, baba-worship, female foeticide - par lardey paey ney jaanvar nu maran dey tareekey uttey!

26: Aman (California, U.S.A.), February 24, 2011, 7:11 PM.

You either kill an animal for your diet or you don't. Really, will God care about the way the animal was killed?

27: Mohkam Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), February 24, 2011, 7:50 PM.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that the issue of halal meat is widespread around the globe. For exampl,e the Mcdonald's restaurants across New Delhi, India only serve halal meat, increasing number of restaurants across U.K. and France are adopting halal meat to be served in their restaurants, about 75% to 80% of street vendors in New York City serve halal meat only. The fact is that there are people within the Sikh community who have adopted halal style meats to eat. So the problem is not only halal but in fact we as Sikhs have compromised our principles, customs, traditions, values, and faith, just to show off, as well as many Sikh youngsters are not well informed of their faiths; if we don't take appropriate measures to stop this and to instill pride in their faith, we will end up losing an entire generation right before our very eyes.

28: M. Singh (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), February 25, 2011, 4:57 AM.

Navdeep ji (#25): We are simply having a discussion and sharing our thoughts. The whole point is to see what other people think. There is strength in numbers and discussions like this bring people together.

29: Kamaljeet Singh (Herricks, New York, U.S.A.), February 25, 2011, 9:23 AM.

I agree with Mokham Singh ji. Our youngsters are not educated about their own faith. We simply tell them certain things are against our religion, but we don't explain why. As parents, we should do a better job to make sure our kids have a proper understanding of Sikhi, so they don't grow up confused.

30: Manvinder Singh (Wilton, Connecticut, U.S.A.), February 25, 2011, 10:27 AM.

There is only one issue. Are we Sikhs (students) of the Guru or not? If we are the Guru's Sikhs, then, we have to follow the Guru's Hukamnama, without any question. What had the Guru thought when he gave that command or what his reasons for pronouncing that edict were, are not for us to question. This was the reason Bhai Lehna became Guru Angad rather than the Guru's own sons, who would question his commands. A Sikh is defined by his submission to the Guru's command.

31: Balwant Singh (Boston, MA, U...S..A), February 25, 2011, 1:16 PM.

Education about Sikhi is where we should focus our efforts. It is more meaningful to know why you do something rather than just being told to do it. That is where we are at fault. In Boston, the average Sikh youth goes to gurdwara just to hang out with friends. They are disconnected with the service and the granthis by a language/ cultural barrier. They are also driven away by the bickering in gurdwara politics. What is going on in the panth today can find parallels in Catholicism. Mass in a Catholic church is held in Latin, which a majority of the congregation does not understand. The everyday Catholic is Catholic only in name, not in practice. How many of us Sikhs can read and understand Gurmukhi? There is good reason for us to follow the Rehat. It breaks down the tenets of gurbani in a clear and direct way. However, if we are not fluent in Gurmukhi, how can we understand Sikhi and explain it to our kids in a meaningful way?

32: R. Singh (Canada), February 25, 2011, 10:06 PM.

Kirpal Singh ji, you are referring to what is celebrated as bakra-eid, which is related to Abraham trying to sacrifice his son. Halal/ kosher is an old and common tradition to all Abrahamic religions from early times, but now being dilligently practiced by Jews and Muslims. Mohkam Singh ji, McDonald's or any other food-service place going halal to find a bigger clientele is not an anomaly, but a decision obviously in the business interests of the corporations. There are potato-burgers being served to vegetarians.

33: Pertinderjit Hora (Queens, New York, U.S.A.), February 26, 2011, 7:50 AM.

I wanted to thank Sonny Singh for bringing this issue forth and daring to express an unpopular point of view. Our Sikh community is very passionate about rejecting practices that are specifically Islamic - be it consuming halal meat, dyeing our beards, fasting, etc. We do not bring up these concerns with the same fervor when it involves other religions. With all due respect to the Rehat Maryada, we have to realize it is an evolving document that should not affect a Sikh's ability to critically think and question the true motivation of some practices. That is the beauty of Sikhism. We are not bound to a box and it is our duty to seek our truth. We do have an identity and rules but they do not come before the true spirit of Sikhism.

34: Balwant Singh (Herricks, New York, U.S.A.), February 26, 2011, 8:57 PM.

Pertinderjit ji: It goes without saying that different religions believe in different things. Sometimes these beliefs will come into direct conflict. Sikhs are not anti-Muslim because their some beliefs go against Muslim practices. Rehat does not need to be amended to fit the needs of those who do not know how the real world works. If you cannot see the beauty in your own religion, then there is a problem with you, not with the religion.

35: Jaz Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 27, 2011, 10:31 AM.

R. Singh and Perminderjit: I disagree with what both you have just said. Firstly, the Sikh concept of meat consumption has nothing to do with 'Muslim' meat per se. We Sikhs simply do not consume meat that has been ritually killed in the name of 'God.' It's really very simple and shouldn't need explaining again and again. For a Sikh not to understand this is a sad reflection on some of us today. Secondly, in areas of the U.K. where McDonald's have gone 'halal', it is NOT to find a bigger clientele. Let's take the Mcdonald's slap bang in the middle of Southall Broadway, for example. The restaurant is right in the centre of one of the western world's largest concentration of Sikhs: an area where Sikhs vastly outnumber Muslims. The McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chickens of that area have not gone 'halal' simply because the majority of the community want it; they have gone 'halal' because they ignorantly, mistakenly, believe that all 'brown' people only eat halal meat. In other words, they think they're doing us Sikhs a favour by supplying us with halal meat. Now whose fault is that? It's certainly not the fault of McDonald's. It's the fault of us Sikhs because as Sonny Singh and a number of others here have demonstrated, we Sikhs, generally, are not willing to insist on OUR own rights. Generally, we don't even know what our religious requirements are ourselves, let alone expect McDonald's to know. P.S. When it comes to Europe, the McDonalds, Burger Kings and Subways of this world are very different from their North American versions. Here in Europe you don't really have vegetarian options such as the 'potato burgers' that R. Singh mentioned. Generally, its all about meat, meat and then some more meat. No real veg option. As a side note though, regarding the McDonald's restaurant on Southall Broadway: The only clientele it really has are teenage Somalis and Pakistanis. The Sikhs can mostly be found in a little restuarant that an enterprising Sikh has opened just opposite the McDonald's. It only sells jhatka chicken dishes and he has rather cleverly named it 'Murgh Donalds'.

36: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 27, 2011, 7:10 PM.

Comments at #30, 31 are excellent. Indeed, language and culture are the most important aspects of building understanding and loyalty to our religion. Today we have many more serious issues to discuss, understand and find solutions. The ghost of 1984 is still alive. For example, the recent news in The Tribune of Chandigarh that some census volunteers in Haryana are putting Punjabis and Sikhs to write in Hindi as their language. Another issue of drugs and alcohol in Punjab. Our politicians have no intellect; they have lost their zameer, and do nothing.

37: Kartar Singh Bhalla (New Delhi, India), February 27, 2011, 10:28 PM.

May I request the Editor to start a separate discussion on the Rehat Maryada, its whys and wherefores ...? We all need to learn more about it.

38: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), March 02, 2011, 8:21 AM.

In response to Kartar Singh Bhalla as a starting point, I have a couple of essays on the Rehat Maryada, including its history, already posted on sikhchic.com. You can access them by looking at a list of my previous columns.

39: Rupinder Kaur (London, United Kingdom), March 05, 2011, 8:15 AM.

I have just one point to make. Since most of the meat we get here in the U.K. comes from halal slaughter houses, I used to buy meat from supermarkets mostly which came from New Zealand, but after finding out that even New Zealand uses that method I was shocked. Now I have no choice but to buy meat from the same place. Most of the schools also have openly accepted that all the meat cooked in school canteens as school meals is also now 100% halal. What should one do in situations like this??

40: Ranjeet (Southampton, United Kingdom), March 07, 2011, 6:55 PM.

Simple ... don't eat meat at all, if you can't guarantee the quality of the produce. Moreover, it is not beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.

41: I.P.S. Ahuja (Canada), June 06, 2011, 7:04 PM.

Rupinder ji's answer to your question is very simple and straight forward. That is, the demand that jhatka be served as well. Sikhs have as much right to demand this, as any other religions. After all, that's how halal came to be served in western nations. Stand up for your rights! Is it not what the Gurus taught us?

42: Harinder Kohli (U.S.A.), December 10, 2011, 12:23 AM.

I was given an explanation which seems a good argument. In the halal process, kalams are recited and it becomes a ritual and the Sikh way does not accept it. It may not be the process of slaughtering and may be the fact that it is a ritual. We treat it food, not a vehicle for gaining religious brownie points.

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