Lawsuits filed against Belgium halal slaughter ban

Halal meat, packaged for sale. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Lawsuits filed against Belgium halal slaughter ban

LONDON: The Coordinating Council of Islamic Institutions in Belgium has filed a lawsuit against legislation that would see the production of halal and kosher meat banned in two Belgian regions, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
The practice of killing animals without first stunning them is due to come into effect in 2019 in the Walloon and Flanders regions, but Muslim and Jewish groups have filed lawsuits against the bans, claiming they violate EU laws guaranteeing freedom of religion, it was reported.
In 2017, politicians in the Walloon region were first to pass their law, in May, followed by politicians in Flanders in July — and both now face lawsuits to stop planned changes to slaughtering practices coming into effect.
The Coordinating Council of Islamic Institutions in Belgium is joined by Belgium’s Jewish communities’ representatives — the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations, the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress — in filing lawsuits.
The European Court of Human Rights has previously described kosher slaughter as “an essential aspect of practice of the Jewish religion,” legal think tank the Lawfare Project said in a statement.
Yohan Benizri, the president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations, told media: “Legislators have given Belgian Jews a worrisome political signal, by trumping their right to practice their faith, in violation of the crucial principle of separation of church and state.
“That’s very sad, but it is also unlawful. It is a violation of European legal norms, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and we are hopeful it will be overturned as such. If this legislation ever comes into force it would be a dark day for freedom in Belgium.”
Animals killed for the production of Muslim halal or Jewish kosher meat are required to be fully conscious at the time at which their throats are slit, in order for the blood to be drained.


Nearly 6,000 Filipino Muslims to perform Hajj this year

Updated 53 min 53 sec ago
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Nearly 6,000 Filipino Muslims to perform Hajj this year

  • Each year, two to three million people who are able to undertake the journey descend on Islam’s holiest city to deepen their faith and cleanse themselves of their sins.
  • This year, 5,800 Muslims from the Philippines will make the trip, according to Omar Mandia, chief administrative officer at the Office of the Hajj Attache, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).

MANILA: On Sunday, Filipino Muslims will start their pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj — a pinnacle in every Muslim’s life.
Each year, two to three million people who are able to undertake the journey descend on Islam’s holiest city to deepen their faith and cleanse themselves of their sins.
This year, 5,800 Muslims from the Philippines will make the trip, according to Omar Mandia, chief administrative officer at the Office of the Hajj Attache, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).
Aside from the Filipino Muslims, some foreign diplomats will be among the delegates from the Philippines.
“There are diplomats who want to join us. They are requesting to be included. These are from the Libyan Embassy, UAE and Iran. They want to join us,” Mandia told Arab News.
“They can just arrange for their Hajj visa but they need to be accommodated in our housing and space in Mina and Arafat,” Mandia continued, as he explained that housing accommodation for pilgrims is done country-to-country, which means that the NCMF has to write a request to the Ministry of Hajj for additional slots to accommodate the diplomats.
In 2017, a total of 6,032 Filipino Muslims performed Hajj, but the number has fallen slightly this year.
“Last year, we had a bigger number of pilgrims from the Philippines, but we’ve reduced it... because of stringent visa requirements,” said Mandia.
An incident in 2016 when dozens of Indonesians were intercepted using Filipino Hajj passports en route to Makkah, prompted the authorities to introduce tight measures to ensure that no other nationalities join the Philippine contingent’s pilgrimage.
“That’s one reason why they’ve been very strict on securing the passports. They don’t want a repeat of that controversy. We are still bearing the consequence of that anomaly,” said Mandia. “We have assured them (Saudi authorities) that we have taken steps in order to prevent that from happening again,” he added.
Of the 5,800 Filipino Muslim pilgrims, the majority are from Cotabato and Lanao provinces, and include pilgrims from war-torn Marawi City.
Mandia, who will also be performing Hajj this year, added: “I’m from Marawi. Our house was destroyed during the siege. We are still not allowed to go back as it is a restricted site even today. They said there are still live bombs there you could step on and get killed.”
When he performs the pilgrimage he said that it would be “a sigh of relief after all those problematic days,” referring to the five-month battle in Marawi.
On average, a Filipino Muslim spends up to 200,000 pesos on Hajj. Some lawmakers sponsor Hajj for those who would not otherwise be able to afford to make the trip, especially those from Marawi City who suffered major devastation during the siege.
The first two batches of pilgrims are scheduled to leave on July 22 on a Saudi Airlines flight. The country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), also has direct flights to take pilgrims from the Philippines to Madinah.
“Last year they (PAL) were not able to get landing permit, so we had to land in Kuwait and an airline in Kuwait flew them to Madinah. Now they have been able to secure a landing permit so they will be transporting pilgrims directly from Philippines to Madinah,” said Mandia.