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I’m not a religious person. There was a time where I actually practiced my religion, but I was never conservative in my views. I do love my religion, though, and having studied Islamic Studies and worked with historical texts, I do feel quite qualified to make statements about Islam.
Even though during the early times of Islam there was, obviously, no concept such as veganism that doesn't mean that it is un-Islamic, as many people seem to think.
On the contrary, I believe that animal agriculture is, at its core, completely opposed to the principles of Islam. That does not mean that I consider Muslims who eat meat to be bad Muslims. However, what I do find un-Islamic is the way in which this subject is being ignored and treated as a taboo by mainstream Muslims. (The same can essentially be said for other religious groups, but, as a Muslim, I will only comment on the Muslim community.) It can easily be argued that ignoring the problems caused by animal agriculture is contributing to them. That means:
- loss of habitat,
- world hunger,
- climate change,
- animal cruelty,
- greenhouse gases,
- water shortage,
- species extinction.
All these are direct consequences of the human consumption of animal products, and I have yet to see a convincing argument from within the Muslim community that makes any of these things acceptable in Islam. The sole argument that is brought up in favor of consuming animal products is that, according to the Qur'an, it's allowed. I'm not going to bore you with the principles of Islamic law, but, suffice it to say, that just because something is permissible doesn't make it advisable, let alone mandatory, especially if the circumstances change. The vast majority of Muslims will consider slavery un-Islamic, despite the fact that the Qur'an clearly allows it. Why is that? Because Muslims (scholars and non-scholars alike) have come to understand that something that was allowed during the time of the Prophet Muhammad does not need to be allowed in the 21st century, especially if it is proven to be harmful and oppressive. Unfortunately, people tend to pick and choose which things we can do away with and which things are supposedly an undeniable aspect of Muslim identity.
It all comes down to convenience. It is simply more convenient for people (Muslim or not) who grew up consuming animal products to continue to do so. Going vegan takes commitment, a commitment that most people simply don't wish to make. People then become defensive when this is pointed out to them, and, in the case of Muslims, this ends in the tired old argument that we "should not make haram what is halal." And this is how the Muslim community has managed to go from one of the most advanced civilizations to one that lags behind in technology, human rights, education, and pretty much every aspect of human life. If the early Muslims had used those same excuses they would not have advanced in medicine and other fields of science.
During the Islamic Golden Age, Muslims were not afraid to learn from other cultures, and so they translated and thereby preserved ancient Greek texts. Today’s Muslims are dealing with an inferiority complex caused by more than a hundred years of colonialism, and they consider everything that was not part of the early Muslim community's lifestyle to be detrimental to the state of Islam. They choose to stay closed-minded on issues for fear of losing their identity.
But I digress. Just like veganism, minimalism and ethical fashion carry distinct “Islamic” features.
Amassing copious amounts of items that are not being used on a regular basis is one of the biggest distractions from the more important things in life.
As far as ethical fashion goes, contributing to the oppression of other people (and for something unnecessary at that) is not even remotely acceptable in Islam. Yes, we like to not look into things and therefore might not be aware of the problems our own consumerism is causing. However, we are, as Muslims, advised to read and seek knowledge, so ignorance can only be an excuse for so long.
This is not meant to be a “holier than thou” post. Rather, it is meant to be an explanation of why I think Muslims, especially those who care about social issues, should be more active in the fields of veganism, ethical fashion, and minimalism. If Muslim facebook groups can share post after post about the burkini ban in France, which doesn’t threaten anyone’s survival, maybe we can start talking about the fact that animal agriculture and fast fashion are two of the most harmful industries on our planet.
I leave you with a quote from the Qur’an, which is perhaps overused in these discussions but is important to remember nonetheless:
“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land” (Surah 5, verse 32, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.