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Washington State Passes Halal Food Consumer Protection Act

Federal Way Activist Muhammad Nazeer discusses the passing of the new Halal Food Consumer Protection Act and what it means for Muslims living in Washington State.

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Federal Way Activist Muhammad Nazeer discusses the passing of the new Halal Food Consumer Protection Act and what it means for Muslims living in Washington State.

By Joshua Solorzano

Muslims can now enjoy meat without the worries of being lied to about its halal status, and if there is deception, sellers can legally face the consequences.

At the Federal Way City Council meeting 7 May, District 30 State Senator Claire Wilson highlighted the new Halal Food Consumer Protection Act. Wilson teamed up with local members of the Islamic Center of Federal Way to sponsor the bill, which was signed into law on 25 March. The bill makes it illegal for people to knowingly prepare or sell foods falsely described as halal.

The Islamic Center of Federal Way liason Muhammad Nazeer says that the process of making meat halal while killing an animal is simple, but very important.

“For Muslims, if the meat is not prepared halal, it is not permissible for them to eat. It’s the same as protection for Kosher foods enjoyed by Jewish people upholding religious law. Right before you cut it, you just bless it. It’s just simple words, ‘In the name of God, who is great and merciful,’ that’s it, that’s all you say. Then you cut it from the jugular vein, and it becomes halal. One cannot kill the animal like in some places where they shoot the cow in the head, and then they cut it. That is not permissible. In some places, they put chickens through hot water, and that is not halal. It has to be cut from the jugular vein,” says Nazeer.

A March 26 news release from Senator Wilson detailed that this bill was partly driven by halal foods being priced higher than their non-halal counterparts, incentivizing sellers to misrepresent foods as halal.

Before this, Nazeer says there were no consequences for people who were selling fake halal meat, taking advantage of the higher prices, and there had been people deceiving the Muslim communities with fake halal meat.

“Locally, there were people who were selling meats and foods and labeling them as halal to sell to Muslims. Some people were even selling pork and saying it was beef or another meat,” says Nazeer.

Despite this being a significant violation for Muslims, Nazeer says when these things happened in the past, there were no consequences for selling fake halal meat. According to Nazeer, eating meat that is not halal can cause a mix of emotions.

“It is a bad taste in the mouth, and of course a guilty feeling, and feeling betrayed, and cheated. There’s nothing you could have done before, but now there is protection if you know someone cheated you. You can always file a complaint, and there is protection from the state,” says Nazeer.

Although Nazeer has lived in Washington state for 25 years, it wasn’t until three or four years ago that he started getting involved with local politics.

“Before then, I thought this bill would never happen because people weren’t educated enough about laws and that a law could happen. Moving forward, I want to keep helping the community, and I hope to share interfaith dialogue with churches and synagogues,” says Nazeer.

Notes from the Editor: This feature has been edited from its original publication here.

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