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HomeNews ReportsMuslim-majority Hamtramck City Council in Michigan approves religious animal sacrifice at homes

Muslim-majority Hamtramck City Council in Michigan approves religious animal sacrifice at homes

The change in law reflects the growing political and cultural clout of the Muslim population in Hamtramck City, most of whom are originally from Yemen and Bangladesh.

On January 10 (local time), Muslim-majority Hamtramck City Council in Detroit, Michigan in the US approved religious animal sacrifice at homes. This decision reversed the ban on such religious animal sacrifice which was in place. Reportedly, the matter was put up for a vote in December as well, but at that time, the ban on such sacrifice continued. All the members of the council are Muslims, and the approval was given with 3-2 votes.

The Detroit Free Press report suggests that after legal advice and objections from Muslim residents in the community, the matter was again tabled for a vote and approved this time. The tie-breaker vote was of Mayor Amer Ghalib, which cleared the path for religious animal sacrifice in the Hamtramck City area in Detroit.

Council member Mohammed Hassan said in a statement that if someone wants to sacrifice an animal for religious purposes, he should have the right to do it. Animals are sacrificed on the occasion of Eid al-Adha or Bakrid, and the meat is then shared among family, friends and, in some cases, the poor.

Calling it an old practice, Director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamin Relations Dawud Walid said the practice is followed to recognise Abraham sacrificing a sheep instead of sacrificing his son, as per Quran and Old Testament passages.

Other religions slaughter animals too, said Mayor

In support of the slaughter, Mayor Ghalib pointed out that the US Constitution protects religious rights. Furthermore, citing a 30-year-old judgment by the Supreme Court, he said that the cities could not impose a ban on animal sacrifice followed by the Santeria religion. He noted that similar practices are followed by Jews, including Orthodox Jews who visit Hamtramck every year to slaughter chickens on the eve of Yom Kippur. He added that the practice is followed at ‘Halal butcher shops’ run by Muslims.

A ban on animal slaughter was sought by council members last summer after the council revised the animal ordinance to deal with an issue related to feeding cats. The Muslim members of the community objected to it, and the proposal was struck down. Additional revisions were proposed to ensure the “right to slaughter animals”.

Notably, the current ordinance in the city is against religious slaughter at homes. It reads, “No person shall slaughter any animal in the City except for properly licensed commercial facilities in the business of food preparation or police in the course of their duties or as permitted by law.”

An earlier version of the ordinance stated the residents who want to follow the practice must inform the city and pay a fee. An inspection will be done to ensure proper arrangements for the same. However, when the ordinance was tabled, these sections were removed.

However, now with the ruling by the City Council, all these restrictions have been removed. In the amended ordinance, temporary religious sacrifice has been exempted from restrictions on the slaughter of animals. The amendment also defines what is “Religious Animal Sacrifice,” saying animals slaughtered must be killed in a humane way, whether by mechanical or electrical means, or by means used in kosher and halal practices.

Residents doing animal sacrifices need to “dispose of all waste in accordance with local, state, and federal law,” it further adds.

The change in law reflects the growing political and cultural clout of the Muslim population in Hamtramck City, most of whom are originally from Yemen and Bangladesh. During the meeting, some council members also objected to flying of LGBTQ Pride flags in the city.

Objections and concerns

Contrary to the applause that the house received following the permission to sacrifice animals, several residents and animal rights advocates have opposed the decision. They said such practice would lead to animal cruelty. They also expressed concerns over sanitation problems in the city. Notably, Hamtramck is one of the most densely populated cities in Michigan.

Around 28,000 people live in Hamtramck, and most have either Bangladeshi or Yemeni backgrounds.

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