A Liberal MLA mistakenly thought she could make hot dogs halal, misleading Muslim guests at this past weekend’s Fairview Community Barbecue to chow down on the forbidden foodstuffs.
Patricia Arab, Liberal MLA for Fairview-Clayton Park, reportedly told Muslim attendees at Titus Park on Saturday that the chicken hot dogs being served to them were halal. It was later revealed the Maronite Catholic MLA had simply uttered a prayer over the sausages.
According to a press release from the Fairview Community Association, a volunteer was misinformed as to what is required for food to be designated halal. Which led to the impromptu prayer ceremony.
“[Arab] had gotten information from somebody that she thought it was the right thing to do,” says Keith Wells with the FCA. “She was trying to help out and thought she was doing a good thing.”
Now in its eighth year, the Fairview Community Barbecue has previously always offered halal food, even going to the extent of providing separate cooking spaces for the halal items. An “organizational issue” meant the group wasn’t able to provide the same items this year.
Under Islamic law, for meat to be classified as halal the animal’s slaughter must be performed by a Muslim and under strict conditions. Members of the Legislative Assembly do not have it within their power to certify food products as in accordance with religious law.
Imam Ibrahim Alshanti, of the United Muslims of Halifax, says several members reached out to his group about the barbecue. Alshanti says the effort of saying a prayer over the food “is a joke.”
“It’s okay if you don’t have halal food,” he says. “Just tell the people, ‘Sorry, we don’t have halal food.’ It will be fine.
“The MLA, she wants to fix the problem, but instead of fixing the issue, she made it worse.”
The imam recommends any future community events reach out to the Muslim community in advance if they’re having problems finding halal-certified food.
“If we are informed, we’ll even go and provide the meat for them. We’ll try and make the event more organized,” he says. “We’ll be more than happy to help them. But don’t try and fix the mistakes by doing a bigger mistake.”
In their release, the FCA apologizes for the miscommunication and says it will be reaching out to the Muslim community and enacting measures to make sure the mistake doesn’t occur again in the future.
“It’s just gotten so blown ridiculously out of proportion,” says Wells, about the complaints. “That’s what’s so frustrating about this. There’s no ill intent, no sense of trying to deceive anyone. It’s just a non-story.”
Calls to Arab from The Coast went unanswered.