Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Haraam Police: on Muslim vegetarians and vegans

We all have met at least thirty-eight Muslims who feel like it's their duty to tell us that something we do, believe, think, or desire is haraam (forbidden in Islam). I can't stand those people. I understand some of them have good intentions, but many of them are so convinced that their way of looking at or practicing Islam is simply the only way to look at or practice Islam. And they just assume that we don't know that the opinion they are trying so hard to impose on us actually exists out there. So I find these kinds of Muslims very annoying. They take that Qur'anic verse "enjoin the good and forbid the evil" to what may be the most extreme level possible, and they just won't shut up until you stop doing what they believe is haraam.

Fortunately, one of the advantages of being an Islamic Studies student is that when they try to tell you that something you do, want, or think is haraam and you smile at them and give them a sharp answer (well, I never do this, but still) in a very gentle manner, they never bother you again, though some will insist that you stop because "God knows what's best for you, and you don't."

But this isn't about the haraam police in general. This is about vegetarian and vegan Muslims and the troubles they receive from their fellow Muslim "brothers" and "sisters." (No, not all Muslims hate on these people.)

SMILE! :)
Let's be clear on the definitions. There are different types of vegetarians out there, but generally, vegetarians find it acceptable to eat anything except meat (not all of them believe all humans should be vegetarian). That is, they can eat yogurt, cheese,eggs, and other dairy products. Vegans, however, avoid anything and everything that comes from animals, not just their meats: they don't drink milk (they use soy milk, almond milk, etc.), don't eat cheese, don't even take vitamins if they have any animal products at all. Fortunately, though, at least in the U.S., virtually everything can come vegan, including cheese :D My last roommate was vegan, and I used to tease her that she eats fake chicken even though she doesn't think people should eat chicken. And, girrrrrrrrrrrrrl, that time I was with her, I fell in love with vegan foods! Of course, I couldn't resist my love for meat, so I still made sure to eat meat (that is, REAL meat!) as often as possible. Whaaat, I'm a Pashtun - we're notorious for loving meat!

Anyway, so that roommate of mine is a convert to Islam. She converted less than a year ago. She'd tell me how so many Muslims keep telling her that you can't be vegan and Muslim. Reason? Because you're supposedly forbidding on yourself something that God has allowed you. Oh, you'll be surprised how many people actually fall for this line of thinking. I'm happy that my roommate didn't. In fact, for her, it was like, "If I have to choose one, then I choose vegan. This is my lifestyle, and if any religion's gonna forbid it on me, then I don't want to follow that religion." I completely agree with her.

He's vegie? I had no idea!

Then I recently found out that another of my friends is vegetarian. She's Indian. Lovely girl. She tells me how difficult it is being a vegetarian (let alone vegan! Can you imagine?!), how, for girls in her society, it's usually about "No one will marry you!" People tell her that the reason she can't or doesn't want to eat meat is that her Imaan (faith) is narrow. What the hell! Who's anyone to tell someone else when their imaan is low? WHAT about eating meat makes a person stronger in faith than someone else? You go to a party or gathering, and you have nothing to eat because every meal is stuffed with meat, and so you're screwed. And then people pity you instead of respecting you and making sure that you don't go hungry as their guest. "What will happen after you get married? Your in-laws will not tolerate your being a vegetarian. You must change." BS like this. But why? What could a family lose by cooking ONE meal that has no meat in it? Since when did it become a law of Islam, a law of God that we eat meat every single day no matter what? Since when did it become an obligation, a fard to eat meat, period?

My heart goes out to her. We can be so cruel, so vicious--and especially when it's in the name of God. Nothing can be better, sometimes, than hating someone, rejecting someone, even killing someone (physically or emotionally or mentally, or in all ways!) if we think we're doing it for God or religion. Shame on us.

Moving on. So, I was saying how I have some vegetarian friends (my former roommate is the only vegan one). Some of them were non-Muslims, and they were forced to become vegetarian after converting to Islam because  the ever-present haraam police told them that Islam forbids vegetarian lifestyles!! Most of them gave in.  The Muslim buddies assured them that they will "get used to" it after a while! It's as if only "good" Muslims eat meat; if you want to be a "good" Muslim, you should eat meat too. You'll get used to it eventually. You'll throw up, get sick, but it's okay -- you'll get used to it, and it's what GOD wants you to do.

Doesn't it sicken you when we disguise ourselves as God just to control people, to weaken them, to hurt them?

Now for my opinion, in case it's not obvious in the above part. There's a famous hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) doesn't eat honey because he just doesn't like it. His followers, who want to do exactly what he does and avoid everything he avoids (understandably - he's our Prophet, the paragon of Muslimness, so following his footsteps to the best of our ability is our aim), (want to) stop eating honey as well. So God sends him revelation that he needs to start eating honey because people are thinking that it's haraam. There's another hadith in which we're told not to make haraam for ourselves what God has made halaal on us. This makes sense - when it's something that's being institutionalized. For instance, when figures of authority forbid us to eat chicken, I would completely understand the Muslims' response to such absurdity, since something is essentially being made unlawful to us when it is obviously lawful. But when it concerns an individual preference, personal taste, what does it have to do with anyone else? When someone makes a personal choice and does not force that choice upon anyone else, why is it any of our business? Don't know about you, but I often feel like minding other people's business and pretending to be God and being a part of the Haraam Police is our way of avoiding the real problems our people are facing. This way, we get something smaller to talk about and make ourselves feel good, in such a cheap way, because we think we brought someone to the Path of God -- when we only made them hate that Path more.

So I think it's ludicrous to assume that you must NEVER make haraam for yourself what God has made halaal for you. There's a difference between halaal (permissible) and fard (obligatory). Eating meat is not fard; it's permissible. Yes, you're required to keep yourself healthy to the best of your ability, but at least in the U.S., we have vegan foods -- we have vegan cheese, vegan milk, vegan EVERYTHING, and you get what I call "fake chicken" and "fake protein" and so on. So if the haraam police tell us that we must eat meat because that's where we get our protein from and our bodies need protein, remind their ignorant asses that you don't get protein from meat only.

And who's anyone else to tell you what's good for you? God didn't tell me what's "good" for me in terms of food. He only told me what halaal options I have, and He certainly never said it's absolutely obligatory for me to eat meat. Dude, I eat it because I grew up with it all my life, and now when I judge the food at a party on how good the meat is!

So, if you're vegan or vegetarian and are Muslim and are tired of heating Muslims tell you that it's haraam to be vegan/vegetarian and Muslim, ignore them. Be yourself. Stay yourself. Love yourself! No one knows your body better than you know yourself (yes, God knows it even better, but He never told you what things you're required to eat; only what you are forbidden to eat), and no one knows your preferences better than you do.

As for those Muslim vegetarians/vegans who come from societies like my friend's above: you have all my support! I am so sorry you have to live with such narrow-minded people around you. I understand our people want the best for us and so we hate it when they're sad because of us, but remember that in especially cases like this, we care more about what other people think of us than how we feel about ourselves. We live *for* other people. And I'm not saying we shouldn't respect our elders or our people, but when this harms us emotionally or metnally and their reasons are not fair or good and certainly nothing God would support, why let them control us?

36 comments:

  1. Hey Orbala, this post really resonates with me personally. I'm not vegetarian myself, though I do have some Muslim friends who are, but I've come across this ignorant attitude held by some Muslims that 'being vegetarian is haraam' several times and it really infuriates me. Not to mention the more general point about people taking it upon themselves to 'do God's work' and physically/emotionally hurting others. You're basically taken the thoughts right out of my head but expressed them beautifully! God bless you :)

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Rehan! God bless you, too :)
      I'm no vegetarian either, but I do sometimes wanna try it (for like a month!)... though I doubt I'd survive, lol.

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    2. Im muslim and vegetarian and glad to see this.

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    3. i agree but how do vegetarians preform qurbani

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    4. how do vegetarians preform qurbani?

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    5. @ Nabil:

      I can think of at least two different possibilities.
      1. They might not eat meat themselves but won't deprive other people of it. If they believe that qurbaani is sincerely about feeding the poor meat and nothing BUT meat necessarily, then they might do qurbaani for the poor.

      2. They might believe that the larger concept isn't about meat being fed to poor/relatives/community/etc. but just food in general, and so they'll invest their money into something else that's general food to take care of the needy of their community.

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  2. ladies, we perform Qurbani on the day of completion of hajj.. and qurbani is must upon muslims, so check out its importance in Islam. and secondly those who wanna try converting to a veg, it doesnt make any sense.. laka why!


    Umair Aezad khan

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    1. LOL @ laka why! Da khanda na shna prata yam!
      Because it's not compulsory to eat meat! Because they don't like meat. Because meat does not appeal to them the way it may appeal to you and me.

      And qurbani is more about feeding others than about feeding your own self. Moreover, it's not the meat-eating that's symbolic in qurbani; it's the fact of giving, of celebrating, of being generous that matters--it's the sacrifice, the actual qurbaani that's symbolic.

      Thanks for your comment!

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    2. hope this will be answered. With Qurbani and vegetarianism/ veganism, how is someone who is vegetarian/ vegan justify morally killing or having an animal sacrificed? I know it would go against many of their moral reasonings. Often they don't eat meat or animal products because of the cruelty to the animal and the taking of a life, sacrificing it against their own will and the animals. The God of these Abrahamic religions ordered this according to the texts, but if God has stated that the sacrifice of an animal is what he wants performed then those Muslim/ Christian/ Jewish vegetarians wouldn't find the necessity of killing and eating of animals wrong in the first place. I don't understand how any Vegetarian/ vegan who is so because of their ideas on not killing would be able to practice any religion whose God allows it, expects it, demands it, because the laws go against their own ethics. If they don't eat because they don't like meat, or it doesn't agree with their bodies, or for environmental reasons, that is one thing, but otherwise their morals conflict with the religions allowances and demands and it would be hard on them to justify that. If God says that He placed animals on the Earth for our consumption and our beasts of burden then a vegetarian/ vegan who believes in this God can't contradict that and say they don't believe animals are our property to use or kill. I do find some hard-core vegans egotistical. All animals require the energy from other life sources for survival, what makes us any different or above that requirement?
      Anyway. Are there any leeway in the sacrifice/ Qurbani of an animal for those that can't justify the killing of what they perceive to be an unwilling victim? Can it be sacrifice of something else like wealth to feed the poor?

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    3. No brother Umair its is only if you have the means to do this. ok. and second it is nothing wrong with being vegetarian. I am muslim revert and vegetarian. there is nothing in quran and hadeeths that state you have to eat m eat.

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  3. Hi! I'm a flexitarian Muslim! Ie most of the time I am vegetarian (for environmental, health and ethical reasons) and occasionally I eat meat (grew up eating meat, and I still have the taste for it- also I hate arguing with people when they serve me food).

    One important thing that is missing from the majority dialogue about halal meat is the ethics of animal treatment. By this, I mean animal cruelty (overcrowding, scared animals being slaughtered en masse) as well as environmental concerns (ie per capita, the world is eating meat today at a rate never seen before!)
    I guess for me, I can see the Islamic concern about ethics in the enjoinder to slaughter an animal quickly via the jugular vein, and also to remember God at that time.

    I fear that many Muslims aren't aware of the awful mass production of meat and eggs, which is really unhealthy (for animals and humans) and also perhaps even against the original meaning of Halal- remembering that despite the food chain, animals are Allah's creatures too. The other thing is (a great reminder, particularly in the month of Ramadhan)- the amount of grain needed to produce 1 pound of meat is much greater than the amount you need to produce grain itself. Which means that there are hungry people around the world whose food we are eating. (Think about the famines of Ethiopia where grain was being exported for cattle consumption, when millions were starving.)

    One of my vegetarian Muslim friends (who is constantly harassed about his decision not eat meat), has an about one of the Sahaba who did not eat meat. I'm not sure about the veracity of this, but it usually shuts people up.

    Eek! A bit of an essay!!

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    1. Salaam, Mariam!
      Thank you for your comment :) (And don't worry about its length! I appreciate it very much, and I'm sure everyone else who reads it does as well, so thank you for it!)

      Precisely! What makes meat (zabeehah) halal and haraam? The method of the slaughtering. Sure, it's going to be slaughtered regardless, but there are still less and more painful ways of doing it, and we are to go with the least painful of all. I agree with you that most Muslims (esp in the West) don't really know how meat is manufactured. I'm sure that if they did, many would become vegetarians.

      Didn't know that about a vegetarian Sahabah, but it's great info! :)

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    2. @ Marian if you are eating meat this this means you are not vegetarian. So pls dont say you are, say you are a person on occasions that eat meat.

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  4. Oh Goshh... I really thought I was the only vegetarian muslim in the world!
    Imagine how glad I was to read this article! Thank you and Mash'Allah you put a smile on my face, I was so sad because my parent told me I would never marry anyone if I remain vegetarian.
    I wish they were more people as open-minded as you on this subject!

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    1. Salaam, Zayna,
      Thank you for your appreciation! :) I'm glad it made you feel better! No, you're certainly not the only Muslim vegetarian (I'm not one myself but I've plenty of friends who are).

      You should open a blog and talk about this! Provide vegetarian Muslims a sort of support group, you know?

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  5. Salaam Alaykoum

    I am a vegan muslim and so is my hubby masha Allah! we hate the way animals are hurted and exploited in this modern dunya and the fact some muslims will eat meat everyday!!! its just so unnesesary and the animals suffer massively, also I have horror stories for the meat, dairy and egg and fish industry.

    Allah (God) did not put the animalshere for human to abuse and hurt and then slaughter (not even halal in most cases in non-muslism countries) so thats a whole new issue really!!!

    But I am a proud revert muslim vegan and my islam fuels my decision to be vegan.:) Thanks for the article

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    1. I am also a revet of nine years from the USA and I am vegetarian and muslim. Here is a site for people that want to be vegetarian or thinking about it or already are . www.veggieboards.com

      Its a great site and I am a member here.

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  6. Completely agree with Zanya. I thought I was the only one. I, too, was worried that I'll have to marry an omnivore simply because there are no Vegan Muslims in the world.

    We should form a club...or a support group. Sounds like we all get harassed about this. I can't go a day without my mother telling me I'm going to hell for going against Allah's will.

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  7. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I really appreciate them!

    VeganMuslimah, Anonymous, and Aliaa: I can't seem to click "Reply" in response to your comments, so I'll just reply this way.

    Aliaa, I agree! Definitely! You should start a blog! That's a great way to start the support group :) Lemme know when you open it, and I'll promote it on my blog/Twitter/Facebook, too!

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  8. really an eye opener for all those orthodox Muslims. you are a wonderful human being. being a brahmin hindu i'm always against killing animals. even its not good for health. we should eat live foods and not dead meat. this has got nothing to do with religion though . HUMANITY IS DESTINATION OF EVERY RELIGION!!

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  9. Salam Alaikum,

    I am a revert too, and trying to be vegan, but am Muslim first, vegan second. My heart swells to hear there are others out there. There are non-veg brothers and sisters who understand what we do, and accept it "as long as our diet doesn't harm ourselves", which I find fair.

    But am sure they can't be around every time I meet the haraam police. I am useless at debating with them - I can never quote my sources, only remember what they said and how strong they were. I should write them all down and carry them with me.

    JAK, May Allah swt reward you and other responders with good for these posts. Inshaallah

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  10. Hi Im so happy to see that there are others out there who are Muslim and Vegetarian/Vegan. I myself have not faced any judgment from people yet, but I recently opened my eyes to what really is going on and how the meat we eat is " produced" . The suffering the animals go through repulses me and is no way how God intended us to treat animals, and that to me is HARAM, it doesn't matter if they just slaughter it in a halal way , when the animal has been treated the way it has. I feel almost ashamed over myself for not realizing this sooner, although I had heard about these things, I honestly was ignorant to the fact that this is how almost all meat is "produced". When realizing this , I wanted to read what it is written in all 3 books from God ( Torah, Bible and Quran ) just to compare, and all 3 books are equal to me as they are all God's words. Anyway I came to realize that the choice I made about not eating meat is supported by God, which makes sense ,and it also made me even more determined about my choice. I have told my parents who totally support me , and agrees with me . And If I ever face any obstacles I will not have any problems sharing the facts I have , and it will be up to them if they want to stay ignorant or if they also want to take a stand. I do not judge anyone for what they want to do , and I will never force anything upon anyone either, but I will gladly share what I know if anyone is interested, and Im hoping more and more people will become aware of these horrible facts . Thank you for your post I really enjoyed reading it, and sorry for the long comment :p

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  11. Surah Al-Baqarah

    [172] O you who belive! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to Allah, if it is Him you worship. [173] He has only forbiden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then he is guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

    My personal opinion for why I am vegeterian: The word Halal is used to describe a lawful sacrifice of a animal.
    The problem is if you truly understand the word ''Sacrifice'' then you would come to the conclusion that a ''Sacrifice'' is only lawful(halal) if it necessary like the Surah says. Is it NECESSARY to eat meat everyday in this day of age ? We have all the NECESSETIES we need to be healthy without it. So my question for you is what are we really sacrificing the animal for? Think about it...


    Much love Ali

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  12. Great line you have shared here this
    "God knows what's best for you, and you don't."
    Really nice its great.

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  13. There is a reason that The Prophet (saw) recommended eating meat. Eating vegan or even vegetarian is ruinous to health and disastrous for the environment. When I went to University in the nineties, I knew a fat handful of students who started a vegetarian diet all starry-eyed and idealistic and ended it when their health declined, hair began falling out, etc. The hardliners say, no you have to do it right, and recommend all sorts of supplements or extracts, neither of which occur in nature. The vegetarian diet, moreover, depends on an abundance of fresh produce shipped from halfway around the world at all times of the year, heedless of the exploitation of foreign workers. Add to that the environmental costs of burning rainforests for crop production, and continual shipping on a massive scale, over vast distances, to keep the vegetarians' bellies full. It is impossible to be a healthy vegetarian relying solely on local, IN SEASON produce. It is neither ethically justifiable nor sustainable. Not even Buddha (as) was a vegetarian; he ate meat, and even his last meal was pork.

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    1. Thank you for your insight, Jean!

      The Prophet actually didn't "recommend" eating meat. It's just something that he or Islam did not forbid. The world is full of vegetarian people or people who just don't eat meat--and they're perfectly normal, healthy, and fine. Or at least no better or worse than those who eat meat. Eating meat has a lot of harms to the health as well, and just like not eating meat and having to be careful, you've to be careful when eating meat as well. The argument goes both ways. I'm not sure what ethics have to do with this though (re: your point on ethical justification).

      Just because people we might respect eat meat or don't eat doesn't mean we have to do the same time :) Preferences, personal choices, circumstances, availabilities, etc. need to be taken into consideration as well when declaring something as good or bad. If anything, actually, eating meat in much of the Western world today would/should be considered unethical because of the treatment of the animals eaten as meat, no? Sometimes things are simply about personal choice and preference and not about what people they love do or say.

      Thanks again for your perspective!

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    2. Salaams to everyone,
      You're not sure what ethics have to do with environmental degradation and exploitation of third-world workers? We'll agree to disagree on that point, then. Regarding the treatment of the animals, I agree that they are often subject to horrible conditions. That is why I support meat from free-range farms where the animals are treated humanely. It is more expensive, but worth the cost.
      Re: the Prophet (saw) recommending eating meat, I was referring to the tradition that He (saw) said to eat meat at least once every forty days, even if you have to borrow money to do so:
      " [ 31108 ] 3 ـ وعن علي بن محمد بن بندار ، وغيره ، عن أحمد بن أبي عبدالله ، عن محمد بن علي ، عن ابن بقاح ، عن الحكم بن أيمن ، عن زيد الشحام ، عن أبي عبدالله ( عليه السلام ) قال : قال رسول الله ( صلّى الله عليه وآله ) : من أتى عليه أربعين يوما ولم يأكل اللحم فليقترض على الله عزّ وجلّ وليأكله .

      أحمد بن أبي عبدالله البرقي في ( المحاسن ) عن محمد بن علي مثله ، وعن ابن أبي نصر ، وذكر الذي قبله ، وعن أبيه ، عن ابن أبي عمير ، وذكر الاول .


      3 – And from `Ali b. Muhammad b. Bundar and other than him from Ahmad b. Abi `Abdillah from Muhammad b. `Ali from Ibn Baqqah from al-Hakam b. Ayman from Zayd the oil vendor from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام. He said: The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله said: Whoever completes forty days and he has not eaten meat, then he is to take a loan upon Allah عزّ وجلّ and eat it.

      Ahmad b. Abi `Abdillah al-Barqi in al-Mahasin from Muhammad b. `Ali likewise, and from Ibn Abi Nasr and he mentioned the one prior to it, and from his father from Ibn Abi `Umayr and he mentioned the first one."
      From: http://www.tashayyu.org/hadiths/food-and-drink/lawful-foods/Chapter-12
      The Companions also actively recommended the consumption of meat. 'Umar (ra) is said to have said, "Meat is the tree of the Arabs, without which they can hardly survive." [Muhammad Abdul Rauf: 'Umar al Faruq. Alexandria, VA: Al-Saadawi Publications, 1419/1998, pp. 112-113] He (ra) himself only refrained from eating meat during times of famine, in order to share in the sufferings of the faithful [ibid., pg. 116].

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  14. "Do not allow your stomachs to become graveyards"
    Prophet Muhammad, Hadith

    "A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being"
    The Prophet Muhammad: Hadith

    "Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself."
    The Prophet Muhammad : Hadith

    "The Prophet Muhammad admonished against the beating or the branding of animals and said
    may Allah condemn the one who branded it
    when he saw a donkey branded on its face"

    "All creatures are like a family (Ayal) of God: and he loves the most those who are the most beneficent to His family."
    The Prophet Muhammad: Hadith

    Source : http://www.think-differently-about-sheep.com/Why_Animals_Matter_%20A_Religious_and_Philosophical%20_Perspective_Islam_Quotations%20.htm

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  15. This is animal cruelty even in halal

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DP3YtCpS2A

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  16. As salaamu alaykum!
    I'm writing an article about Vegan/Vegetarian Muslims and would appreciate your help in circulating this survey. If you know anyone who CURRENTLY identifies as BOTH MUSLIM AND VEGAN/VEGETARIAN, please share this survey with them. Thanks in advance!
    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1hli1P4oRiwGh9S7j-od4z41iH92iCVQqFjJ9LGga7m0/viewform

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    1. Thank you, EternitySojourner! I've shared the link with others, and I hope they respond.
      Best of luck with the survey!

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  17. We all need energy to live and that energy come from the Sun. The only specie on planet earth that could convert that Sun's energy is the Plant. All other species including Home Sapiens cannot do that. So why must our specie eat animal who had to eat vegetable first to get that energy when we can get it direct from the plants. A vegan is the smartest of our specie since they get the energy from the first source on planet earth The Plant.

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  18. I am very interested to find all these Muslim vegetarians.I have two points to make: at age 80 I have been vegetarian all my adult life and well and free from any aches and pains. I've had 'flu once as an adult and no colds for 12 years.
    The other point is that Muslims are, apparently, forbidden from eating/drinking blood. Next time you see a lump of 'halal meat' just chop it up into small pieses, place it in a bowl, cover with water and stir. The water goes red. That is blood. Muslims are not supposed to eat blood.1500 years ago words were made from what was understood in those days. In the 21st. century we know that throughout any meat are thousands of capillaries that will be full of blood which cannot possibly be drained.

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  19. Fantastic post. Even non-muslims who eat meat carry on about vegetarians - it's like it's a personal slight on them because they eat meat - but muslims are particularly entrenched in meat eating. It's definitely not something I relate to personally.
    "Doesn't it sicken you when we disguise ourselves as God just to control people, to weaken them, to hurt them?" I love this line.

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Dare to opine :)

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