Whose Rights?

March 6, 2014
BY Suzanne Pollak
Delegation meets with Danish ambassador over slaughter ban
Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen (third from left) discusses his country’s ban on kosher and halal slaughter with the FFEU Muslim-Jewish delegation. ( FFEU)

Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen (third from left) discusses his country’s ban on kosher and halal slaughter with the FFEU Muslim-Jewish delegation. ( FFEU)

A 10-member delegation of Jews and Muslims told the Danish ambassador to the United States that his country’s ban on ritual slaughter has sullied Denmark’s reputation.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, led the Feb. 27 delegation in protest of the ban, which went into effect at the end of February. The law outlaws the slaughter of any animal that was not stunned first. This runs contrary to kosher and halal rules.

“We went in there to express our deep concerns and our disdain for the latest legislation coming out of Denmark,” Schneier said in a phone interview.

Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen appeared surprised at how much damage the ban is having on his country’s reputation, “both in the Jewish and Muslim communities,” according to Schneier. He called it a “somewhat twisted irony” that Denmark had a positive reputation when it came to the Holocaust but now would do this.

Schneier called the ban on ritual slaughter harmful not only for Jews and Muslims living in Denmark but also in nearby countries, where the law may set a precedent for other governments to adopt the same policy.

The ban came about following Denmark’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food issuing an edict against ritual slaughter, explaining that animal rights must trump religious requirements. Denmark’s policy is that those who want to eat only kosher or halal foods can import meat from Belgium or France, explained Schneier.

Schneier said he asked the ambassador if he would put up with an edict that said he could only use a Christmas tree purchased in Belgium or France as the environment was more important than his religion.

“What the minister heard loud and clear is how this is impacting the reputation of his country,” said Schneier, adding that he hopes also to meet with the Danish ambassadors to France and the United Kingdom in the near future.

The ambassador promised to relay the delegation’s feelings to his government, and Schneier said he is optimistic, noting that the meeting has been “all over the Danish community in the past few days.”

Sayyid Syeed, national director for the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, who headed the delegation with Schneier, said in a statement that the “ban may make it impossible for Danish Muslims to observe important events in the Muslim calendar, such as the annual Eid-al-Adha celebration, when Muslims are commanded to sacrifice an animal as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. One can only wonder if the Danish government is seeking to make life so difficult for Muslims and Jews that many will decide to leave the country.”

Other members of the delegation included Mohammad Elsanousi, director of community outreach for ISNA; Marshall Breger, vice president of the Jewish Policy Center; Suhail Khan, former White House liaison to the South Asian community under President George W. Bush; Symi Rom-Rymer, founder of the Global Muslim-Jewish Friendship Forum; Maqsood Chaudry, president of the Mclean, Va., Islamic Center; Jason Kampf, FFEU board member; Parvez Khan, leader of Jews and Muslims in D.C.; and Will Eastman, FFEU executive director.

According to Schneirer, there are 8,000 Jews and 220,000 Muslims living in Denmark.

spollak@washingtonjewishweek.com

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