BEWARE! McDonald’s, Whole Foods, WalMart, KFC, even Best Buy are becoming Shari’a compliant

“We are not saying, ‘Support us,'” said Faisal Masood, a management consultant. “But we want them to understand what our values are.” (Yes, do tell us about your values and especially your brutally inhumane method of Halal animal slaughter)

AP-The worldwide market for Islamically permitted goods, called halal, has grown to more than half a billion dollars annually. Ritually Brutally slaughtered meat is a mainstay, but the halal industry is much broader, including foods and seasoning that omit alcohol, pork products and other forbidden ingredients, along with cosmetics, finance and clothing.

Corporations have been courting immigrant Muslim communities in Europe for several years. Nestle, for example, has about 20 factories in Europe with halal-certified production lines and advertises to WesternMuslims through its marketing campaign called “Taste of Home.” Nestle plans to increase its ethnic and halal offerings in Europe in coming years.

In the United States, iconic American companies such as McDonald’s (which already has a popular halal menu overseas) and Wal-Mart have entered the halal arena. In August, the natural grocery giant Whole Foods began selling its first nationally distributed halal food product — frozen Indian entrees called Saffron Road.

Along with new customers, however, the companies draw critics and can become targets in the ideological battle over Islam and terrorism.

Abdalhamid Evans, project director with the World Halal Forum Europe, which works with the global halal industry, said a recent backlash has prompted some mainstream businesses in Europe to keep a lower profile (aka hiding) about their halal products or scale back their offerings.

In the U.K., after Kentucky Fried Chicken rolled out halal menu options in several dozen stores, the restaurant chain pulled the items in a few locations in the face of protests. Critics dubbed the menu “terror chicken.”

Last September, the Daily Mail of London reported that many British supermarkets, fast-food chains, hospitals, schools, pubs and sporting arenas such as Wembley Stadium, were serving some halal meat and poultry without notifying the public. A large share of meat sold in Britain comes from New Zealand, where the slaughterhouses have expanded halal production as they try to boost their already robust exports to Islamic countries.

In the uproar that followed, Barnabas Aid, a group that fights Christian persecution worldwide, started a petition in Britain against what it called the “imposition” of halal. It “may be interpreted as an act of Islamic supremacy,” the group said. U.S. companies have also faced some resistance, although on a smaller scale.

Last year, Best Buy Inc. was inundated with calls, e-mails and letters complaining that the company was anti-American after acknowledging a Muslim holiday — “Eid al-Adha,” or the Feast of the Sacrifice — for the first time in a national advertisement. That year, Eid al-Adha fell around Thanksgiving, so the ad, a small bubble at the bottom of the page, appeared in the company’s Thanksgiving flier. Critics seized on the timing in their complaints.

“They used very abusive language,” said Nausheena Hussain, a marketing manager for Best Buy in Minnesota. “It was pretty sad.” (No, that was pretty good!)

Joohi Tahir, vice president of marketing and sales for Crescent Foods, the halal chicken producers based in Chicago, said Wal-Mart executives approached Crescent Foods two years ago looking for a halal chicken supplier, then invited Crescent executives to Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas to advise them on reaching Muslim consumers.

That same year, Wal-Mart opened a supercenter in Dearborn, Mich., an area with one of the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the country. The store is geared for Mideast consumers, with a range of halal products, including specialty foods. (And their salesgirls are all hijab-compliant)

Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said the merchandise in each store can vary according to the needs of the surrounding community, so it is difficult to know the exact number of U.S. stores that carry halal products. But several in Michigan and at least one store in Canada have advertised that they offer some halal items.

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