Denmark’s recent decision to effectively ban all halal and kosher meat production has been criticized by a number of Islamic scholars in Qatar, and prompted concerns about meat imports from the country.
This week, the Danish government enacted an amendment to European regulations governing animal slaughter, removing an exemption that had allowed Muslims and Jews to avoid stunning animals before they were killed.
The stunning of animals is a contentious issue in both Islam and Judaism, with some arguing that stunned animals are often already dead. Slaughtering an animal in this instance is prohibited in both faiths.
The move has been labeled as both anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic by pressure groups, but Denmark’s government has maintained that its decision was taken entirely on the basis of animal welfare. The country’s minister for Agriculture and Food, Dan Jørgensen, told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion.”
Several Qatar-based Islamic scholars have spoken out about the decision, raising concerns not just about meat exported from Denmark to Qatar, but also imports from other European countries. Muawafi Mohamemd Azb told the Peninsula:
“Denmark’s decision represents a dangerous shift that Muslims should take seriously. They have to oppose this decision and convince European countries exporting meet to Arab world to respect Muslims’ values and religion, because Islam clearly states that eating dead animals is haram.”
Meanwhile, another scholar, Abdussalam Al Basyouni, told the paper that he was concerned about halal meat slaughtered in other Western countries, as, he argued, there was “no proper monitoring” to ensure this meat was always produced according to strict Islamic principles.
The scholars have asked Qatar’s authorities to be “cautious” about all meat imported from Denmark.
New Islamic cultural center
Denmark’s decision to outlaw religious slaughter comes just ahead of the opening of a Qatar-backed Islamic cultural center in the country.
The Danish Islamic Council has praised the Hamad bin Khalifa Center for Civilisation, which is due to open in May.
Speaking to the Qatar News Agency, spokesperson Mohamed Al Maimouni called it “a source of admiration to all Muslims in Denmark,”adding that Qatar’s involvement in the project would “help Muslims to positively integrate in the Danish society, and promote respect for laws.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately four percent of the Danish population is Muslim.