Fury over Halal Christmas dinner
PARENTS expressed outrage last night over a school’s plans to serve pupils a Muslim Christmas dinner.
The headteacher announced that she intended to replace the children’s traditional turkey meal with halal chicken. She explained that eating poultry which had been slaughtered in the Muslim way would create an “integrated Christmas”.
But furious parents accused the school of undermining the Christian faith.They were backed by Labour MP Denis MacShane who demanded to know why the children were not being offered a choice. Mr MacShane said: “No child should be obliged to eat food that is contrary to their personal convictions or religion.
Schools should offer a choice and not allow the joyous celebrations of a Christmas dinner to become a divisive issue.
“I hope all the children can join in this fun and if I am invited I would be delighted to sit down with all the children for a Christmas dinner, halal, non halal or the healthy option, vegetarian.” After Mr MacShane’s intervention, Jan Charters, head of Oakwood School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, backed down and youngsters will now be offered a choice of halal chicken or a traditional turkey dinner, costing £1.75.
Campaigners and religious organisations said the ban on traditional Christmas celebrations was making Britain a more divided society. John Midgley, of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: “It seems as though the parents have made the school see sense.
“Until common sense prevailed the school was creating a problem when there was no problem.” Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Headteachers and school governors should not make this sort of mistake in the first place. There are a lot of these silly people around who undermine British culture. “This is a victory for common sense.
It is good these mad politically correct people have been made to think again.” Abdul Dean, ethnic minorities officer for the Christian People’s Alliance, said: “There is a political agenda here. Who are these people speaking on behalf of Muslims? “Muslim parents themselves would not have objected to children being offered a choice.
The teachers should have taken this on board especially in this time of tension.” Ms Charters said: “This was an attempt to extend the spirit of inclusion which would allow Muslim children to sit down and enjoy a meal together. “It is very frustrating that people find motives which are not present and we will not now be doing this.” Halal meat is slaughtered in accordance with strict Muslim laws with a single cut to the throat.
It is also important that the animal does not have any blood as Muslims are banned from drinking it. This places a great importance on the method of slaughter, in which a sharp knife is used to sever all the vessels in the animal’s neck, causing blood to drain completely.
The practice has been criticised as inhumane by The Farm Animal Welfare Council which has called for it to be banned. Ms Charters added: “We secured assurances that the slaughterhouse was certified to be killing humanely and all animals were stunned. “When we discussed the Christmas dinner we said that there was nothing to stop anyone from eating the main course because it was halal although the Muslim pupils will not eat the sausage and bacon rolls.
Chicken is chicken as far as I am concerned but there will also be other choices on the menu apart from a Christmas meal.” Outraged mother Rachel Johnson, from Kimberworth, said: “This is not a racial issue. Why can’t the non-Muslim kids enjoy traditional Christmas fare? “Why can’t we have a choice of chicken which suits everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims.
“We bend over backwards at Eid (an Islamic festival) to eat traditional Muslim food so why should we have to change our Christmas tradition?” Mrs Johnson added: “I feel my culture is being stolen away from me. I have no objections to halal meat being on the menu so long as there is a choice of traditional Christian Christmas fare. “A lot of parents have been in touch to support my views.
Our culture and religion are being trampled on and it is not right. It is almost as stupid as serving up pork on Eid.” Her 15-year-old daughter, who did not want to be named, added: “I have no objections to including Muslims in celebrating Christmas but it is quite wrong to offer us only halal meat. A lot of my friends feel the same and say there should be a choice and they were thinking of boycotting the Christmas meal.
“I also think a lot of people will be horrified to know that halal meat is often served at school without a choice. I will not be staying for any more school dinners “I think the people who make these decisions are adding to the conflict.” A Rotherham Council spokesman said: “Out of 16 comprehensive schools in the borough only two use private school suppliers. The rest use in-house council caterers.
Of those 14 all offer a choice between halal meat and conventionally slaughtered meat”. Local councillor Mahroof Hussain said: “Christmas is an important time in everybody’s life in Britain and we should celebrate it. If we are talking about food maybe we should have choice but that is a decision for the school governing body.”