Kosher vs Halal is a Battle for the Soul of our Supermarkets

In the red corner, a peaceful, creative, successful and admired diaspora that has gifted economic and cultural bounties wherever it has settled. In the blue corner, bigoted vandals, in hock to an ugly and violent ideology, bullying others while playing the victim and demanding special treatment. Guess who our supine supermarkets are sucking up to? Why, the bullies and bigots, of course. 

Yesterday, we learned that Sainsbury's had removed kosher products from the shelves of its Holborn store after pressure from Islamist thugs. They later admitted to customers it had been a mistake to do so, but stopped short of issuing a proper apology. Would Sainsbury's, or any other supermarket, have removed halal products from sale in the face of similar threats? Not on your nelly. 

Indeed, our supermarkets go a step further and feed halal products to their customers in some cases without even correctly labelling it. And I think we've all seen the "halal section" of the meat aisle slowly expanding over the past few years. Brits are right, I think, to feel disorientated by its rapid growth. The amount of space they take up is wildly disproportionate to the number of Muslims in Britain. 

In the Tesco near where I live, there is a wider selection of chicken and beef products in the halal section than in the normal bit. So if you want a full range of meat you are basically obliged to pick from cuts that have been prepared for Muslims. I don't know about you, but the thought of my Sunday roast having been ululated over gives me the creeps. 

The supermarkets like halal because they can put more of a mark-up on it. And I guess, in the wake of the horse meat scandal, some people might be tempted into mince with a more reliable provenance. Tesco would doubtless claim it is responding to local demand, but something has obviously gone wrong when its product selection makes it almost impossible to avoid halal. (When it's even labelled correctly.)

By contrast, the kosher section in my local Tesco Extra is... well, I'm not even sure there is one. I drove over this morning to be sure. Perhaps Tesco thinks there are no Jews in Essex. But after 40 minutes of trawling the Tesco mega-store this morning I couldn't find a single kosher food section, and certainly nothing like the vast banks of Islamic victuals. I'm quasi-Jewish, as they say, so don't much care about kosher. But I find it odd.

The battle for the soul of our supermarkets is significant because it tells us a lot about how we, as a society, respond to pressure from bullies. So far our report card is disappointing. If catering for Muslims also means rolling over and taking it from Islamists, and pulling Jewish products from the shelves, perhaps it's time to remove halal products from our supermarkets until the thuggish behaviour stops. 

Of course, the dirty secret I'm not supposed to tell you is that I'm only using "Islamist" as a courtesy, so as not to offend Muslim readers. There's no evidence that this loutish behaviour is coming from wannabe jihadis: it's simply swaggering, boisterous young Muslim men, who have been taught that if they throw their weight around, they generally get what they want.

It doesn't help that vanishingly few of the checkout staff are white these days. Under normal circumstances I'd be grateful: I dread getting the sullen, judgmental white cashier who either doesn't want to be there or thinks she's better than supermarket work. But have a wander into the Holborn Sainsbury's and you tell me whether the staff there would be hostile or sympathetic to removing Jewish food from the shelves.

It's worth repeating that this has nothing to do with the purported justification for protest: suffering in Gaza. Because the food in question wasn't even Israeli: it included pastrami sandwiches made in Wembley. So Sainsbury's didn't temporarily bow to pressure from humanitarian campaigners: it gave in to anti-Semites. Doesn't Sainsbury's know the difference between a race and a country? Compare and contrast this store manager's cowardice - or complicity - and the boycotts of Jewish stores in 1930s Germany. 

It's time to grow up and protect the people who really do need our protection. Anti-Semitism is on the rise everywhere. It's at levels unseen since the Nazis, we're told. Meanwhile, violent attacks on Muslims, except for a blip after the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, are going down., and are largely restricted to "hijab-pulling." No wonder. I mean, would you walk up to a man coming out of a mosque and take a swing at him?

We must ask what kind of a country we want to be. Are we to suck up to bullies in the vain hope they don't come for us next? History suggests that's foolhardy. Or do we protect the weakest in our society against brutishness and barbarism, and reject the spinelessness of Sainsbury's?


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