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Tuesday, 15 March 2011


On Tuesday 29th March, a fortnight today, for England v Ghana, we'll meet outisde Wembley Park Tube at 6pm.  We are going to need a big team, because there are other pedestrian entances from the south and west to cover.  I really need to know now who is coming to this outreach in order to plan it.
Last week, I was told in the space of a single day by three separate Wembley/FA officials firstly that no meat is halal, secondly that all meat is halal, then lastly that only chicken and lamb is halal. Wembley sent me this vague statement from Delaware North Companies (DNC) who are the Wembley caterers:"We cater for a wide variety of dietary needs and there are always a number of options available to suit most requirements.  We source large volumes of meat and a proportion of the chicken and lamb is certified halal. Halal beef is also offered to our hospitality customers on request.  Our events and menus are diverse and are continuously changing and we can both advise our customers of options or endeavour to cater for specific requests."
So I asked the Wembley man Nick: 'As I understand it, from what you told me, chicken and lamb at Wembley Stadium are halal (whether pre-stunned or not) and beef is not halal.  Can you confirm that please?  Can you also please state what would be the objection or other negative impact on insisting that Delaware North use only non-halal chicken?'
Next day I had a reply: 'We won’t be commenting further', said Nick.
I don't think I have encountered such a level of dodging and weaving while researching halal food before.  What do Wembley gain from refusing to be transparent about their catering?  Are they hoping we'll just forget about it and eat what we're given?
In the absence of honest labelling to warn fans whether they are eating Islamic meat or not, and based on what I was told by Nick, the statement from Delaware North, a bit of reading between the lines and my experience on this issue so far, my advice to fans is this:  Avoid all chicken and lamb at Wembley, and ask about the beef burgers on site. Or stick to sausage rolls or bacon sandwiches.  Or take your own.
We started filming the new video on restaurants and take-aways on Saturday.  Had a priceless encounter in the halal-only Subway in Barking.  I went in for a ham 'Sub', which was advertised on the Subway website as ;'Sub of the day' at £2.29.  'Can I have a ham sub?' I ask.  'Yes, of course,' says the Muslim girl behind the counter.  'Is that proper ham?' I ask as she shoots off to make it.  'It's turkey-ham,' she says.  Turkey-ham?  What on earth is that? 
I am reminded of Sir Winston Churchill being introduced to a man named Bossom. 
'Bossom?' queried the great man.  'Bossom?  It's neither one thing nor the other.'
I declined the offer of turkey-ham.  Later, I remembered my breakfast on Emirates Airlines a year and a bit ago.  They served up something painted with red stripes pretending to be bacon.  That will have been halal turkey-bacon I guess.
There is a harrowing eye-witness report from Pakistan in the Herald Tribune written by Taha Siddiqui who has met Aasia Bibi's family and relatives of Christians burnt to death in Gojra in what appears to have been a month-long investigation.  Siddiqui is a Muslim, and at the end he wonders: 'With the hatred and bigotry I have witnessed in the past few weeks, I wondered what happened to the Islam of my childhood, the religion of peace, harmony and tolerance?' 'Arun' in the comments replies:
'The celebrated Ilmuddin of 1929 suggests that the childhood was a brief interregnum, an aberration in the way things always were.'
Arun is referring to Ghazi Ilm-ud-deen, who took it upon himself to murder the book publisher Raj Pal for publishing a book Muslims decided was blasphemous.  He was executed in Lahore in November 1929 in what was then British-controlled India but later became Pakistan.  You can read about it on Facebook HERE or Wikipedia HERE or a Muslim site HERE (all are pretty much the same).  Ilmuddin became celebrated overnight, and millions attended his funeral.  In an important sense Ilmuddin was a forerunner of Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who shot Punjab governor Salman Taseer and has become a Muslim hero.

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