Daily Mail Whips Up “No Halal at Westminster” Non-Controversy

The Daily Mail‘s Chris Hastings strikes again:

The Palace of Westminster has rejected demands to serve halal meat in its restaurants.

Muslim MPs and peers have been told they cannot have meat slaughtered in line with Islamic tradition because the method – slitting an animal’s throat without first stunning it – is offensive to many of their non-Muslim colleagues.

Some rather basic questions: who is making the “demands”? Who has told “Muslim MPs and peers” that halal will not be made available? And what is the basis for claiming that the reason halal food remains unavailable is that “many… non-Muslim colleagues” find it “offensive”?

Hastings, however, offers only the following:

…The stance has infuriated some parliamentarians who have eaten meat in the Palace’s 23 restaurants and cafes, having been assured that it was halal. 

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham said: ‘I did feel misled. I think a halal option should be made available.’

…However, a spokesman for the House of Lords and the House of Commons confirmed that it was not served in their restaurants.

That’s it. There’s no “demand” here from Lord Ahmed, and the quotes do not support the other claims in Hastings’ article.

The only discussion on the availability of halal food  at Westminster that I can find dates from 2006. The House of Commons Administration Committee produced a report entitled Refreshment Department Services, which in paragraphs 88 and 89 included the following:

Responses to the Committee from sufferers of nut allergies and Coeliac Disease highlighted the difficulty of obtaining basic information on the ingredients of food currently available in RD outlets. Several submissions to the Committee suggested making available a wider and more imaginative range of vegetarian food. Responses from House staff and Members’ staff suggested making halal and kosher food available.

…We recommend… that the Department should examine the feasibility of providing foods to meet special requirements such as gluten-free, kosher and halal diets.

This was based on the following submissions to the committee:

Yasmin Ataullah, Asad Rehman, Lara Sami, Office of George Galloway MP

1. We write on behalf of many Muslim members of staff within the Palace of Westminster with a request for you to consider using halal meat in the Refreshment Department. There are a number of Muslims working within the parliamentary estate, both as House of Commons staff, and as MP’s staff.

2. We would very much like to be able to choose from the entire menu, rather than always having to opt for the vegetarian meals on the menu. I am sure that the four Muslim Members of the House of Commons would appreciate this as well as the many Muslims working within the parliamentary estate.

3. I would be grateful if you would seriously consider catering for the needs of all parliamentary staff by introducing the use of halal meat.

4. I am aware that the Refreshment Department already has arrangements for the supply of halal meat when catering for functions sponsored by MPs. As such, I believe that the introduction of halal meat for our canteens would not be too troublesome.

Mashood Ahmed, House of Lords Computer Officice

My only suggestion is for you to provide more Halal/Kosher food.

A subsequent Response from the Refreshment Department included the following:

Catering for customers with strict religious dietary requirements is more problematic. Both kosher and halal food require separate preparation as well as the purchasing of suitable foods; for strict religious observance this can only be achieved by having separate kitchen facilities and separate equipment for the preparation of kosher or halal foods. This could only be achieved if one of the Department’s venues was specifically designated for this purpose and appropriately qualified chefs engaged. We do not believe that this is a viable option, even in the medium term, and recommend that the Refreshment Department continues to cater for requests for strict kosher or halal meals by buying them in from approved suppliers.

So far as I can see, there has been no official discussion of the issue since then, much less one involving “infuriated” Muslims and non-Muslims finding halal “offensive”.

Catering decisions and policies at the Palace of Westminster are clearly made following consultations and discussions that are made public. Hastings should be able to provide evidence from more recent documents to support the claims in his article – instead, he pads his piece out with irrelevant asides such as that “members of the Church of England have complained that the spread of halal meat was ‘effectively spreading Sharia law’ across Britain.” It looks very much that the Mail is fanning a bogus controversy in order to heighten a sense of discord between Muslims and non-Muslims in the UK.

It should be recalled that Hastings has form as a yellow journalist. He recently whipped up a “BBC uses BCE-CE dating system” hysteria, and before that was responsible for a completely bogus story about how the television series Downton Abbey was being re-edited for American television due to “fear its intricate plot will baffle U.S. viewers”. That story prompted US television critic Jace Lacob to make it clear that he considers Hastings to lack journalistic integrity.

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  1. […] for its biases and omissions in reporting on Islamic militancy — while some tabloids are taken to task for whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria. However, one can usually count on the corporation making […]

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