I was making my rounds on the Internet during class earlier this week, and I came across a curious headline on Gawker: “Is Your Thanksgiving Turkey an Islamofascist?” I bit. The article was about the response of one blogger to the fact that Butterball, a major poultry brand, sells halal certified turkeys.
The word “halal” is a general term used to refer to things permissible for Muslims, and in this context of food, it refers to things that Muslims are allowed to eat. Though I’m not fully certain of all the details regarding Butterball’s claim that their turkeys are halal, it would appear that the company is advertising their turkeys as having been raised and slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines.
The blogger alluded to earlier is Pamela Geller, a noted fearmonger and Islamophobe, and she’s outraged that Americans nationwide will have on their tables turkeys that, in her mind, represent the antithesis of American values. Geller absurdly equates the consumption of halal turkeys to a surrender in the face of some imagined creeping jihad threatening the American way of life. That’s right. We Muzzies plan to take over America one turkey at a time.
But I’d much rather talk about the most important piece of news in this story: Butterball, a household name in the poultry industry, is using its products to reach out to America’s vibrant Muslim population. At worst, it’s just a billion-dollar company trying to make more money by expanding its customer base. At its best, it’s a company seeking to include American Muslims in a national tradition by making a mainstream product available to them. I’m not interested in which it is. Either way, a major brand in the United States seems to be acknowledging the fact that American Muslims are an important part of this nation’s cultural smorgasbord and should be included in its holidays.
There was similar controversy months ago when Whole Foods celebrated Ramadan by having promotions aimed at Muslims and a greater selection of traditional halal food. Despite the uproar, Whole Foods firmly stood by its decision, and the promotion continued, much to my satisfaction. I hope that Butterball follows a similar course of action.
I have no big problem with not being able to eat meat from the vast majority of American brands, but when I find out that one of those brands is actively taking steps to include me without excluding others, it makes me extremely happy. It’s especially heartening when that inclusion revolves around celebration and festivity. I’m one of many, many Muslims who fasts during Ramadan and has turkey for dinner on Thanksgiving. I’m glad that some big companies are finally realizing that.