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Muftis Council Paving Way for Halal Industry Boom in Russia
With the rise of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society of cosmopolitan cities and states, values and beliefs are not long limited to the borders of any given country.
Perhaps, it could be argued, that 50 years ago non-Christian and non-Jewish religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism were generally seen as non-Western religions, bound to forever remain in locked in the lands of their origin i.e. the Middle-East, south Asia etc.
Of course any good historian can easily tell you that this is far from the truth, as non-Christians and non-Jews have always been a part of Europe, Russia and the Americas, especially Muslims. Without even having to mention 800 years of Muslim rule in Spain and the Muslims who discovered America before Christopher Columbus, the native Muslims who still live in the Balkans, Caucuses and former Soviet states of central Asia are enough examples from more contemporary times of Islam in Western civilization.
However, with the increased awareness and concept of nationality, citizenship and rights, the new upcoming generations of Muslim youth who have been born and raised in primarily non-Muslim environments are challenging the ideological boundaries in regards to the relationship between Islam and its place on the geographical map. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who may have migrated from predominantly Muslim lands, this new generation cannot be told to ‘go back’ to their countries, as they most likely don’t have any other country to ‘go back’ to.
Nonetheless, Muslims in primarily non-Muslim Western environments are successfully integrating without assimilating, and their firmness upon Islam, especially certain elements of it, is opening the way for some Islamic values to become norms in the West. One of the most important issues for Muslims is that of halal meat, as even many of the least practicing Muslims have not given up their insistence on eating meat that is compliant to their religious standards.
For this reason, even mainstream slaughter houses are beginning to employ Muslim butchers with a good understanding of halal meat to supply Muslim customers. Halal meat has entered restaurants and supermarkets wherever there are Muslims to purchase it. Committees have also been set up to monitor whether meat is being produced according to Islamic guidelines, with certificates issued to those who follow them.
Although Muslims, particularly of Tatar, Turkic and Caucasian background, have always been a part of Russian society ever since the Soviet Union was formed, recent migrations of Muslim workers to predominantly Slavic Christian regions, including the capital Moscow, has brought the concept of halal meat to the forefront in the country.
Foreseeing a bright future for halal industry, a growing number of Russian Muslims have led demands for uniform standards for halal products and certification in their country.
Madina Kalimullina, director of the Economic Department of Russia Muftis Council, told Khaleej Times on Monday, December 23, “The halal food industry is growing in double-digit numbers in Russia…annually, we certify more than 40 enterprises in different spheres of production.”
Kalimullina, who is also a director of Moscow Halal Expo, which was set up by the Russia Muftis Council (RMC) in 2010 to attract new investors to the growing halal market, added, “The present stage of the halal industry development can be considered as mutual acquaintance and deeper knowledge of each other among certification bodies.”
In 2002, the RMC also established the centre for Halal Standardization and Certification. Nine years later, in 2011, they formed the Economic Department for the council. Halal, which is Arabic for ‘permissible’, is not just a ruling for food. Everything in life from daily human interaction to big business transactions are managed by the concept of halal and haram (permissible and impermissible) in Islam. Therefore, these bodies set up by the RMC also train both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to gain an understanding of these guidelines.
In saying that the halal industry promises to become “the world brand of healthy, ecological and safe products and services,” she said “the concept of halal will require new routes in the international trade”.
Approximately 23 million Muslims live in Russia, comprising around 15% of the general population, making Islam the second biggest religious in the country after Orthodox Christianity.