Muslims Donate for Hungry Americans

By Abderrazak Mrabet RALEIGH, North Carolina – The Muslim American Society (MAS) has launched a nationwide campaign to encourage Muslims to donate food and money to help feed fellow hungry Americans, regardless of their faith. “It’s our way of showing the community that we care about everyone and that Allah loves everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims,” Allyson Swelam, the head of the outreach committee in MAS Raleigh chapter, told IslamOnline.net. Muslims are encouraged to donate canned food, nonperishable items as well as money to provide fresh meat. Donation boxes were made available at local mosques and Islamic schools. “All donations are going directly to low income people who live under the poverty line,” said Allyson. She asserted that the response of the Muslim community was good, especially that this is the first time to conduct such a campaign. “I think this is a good start and we already met our target as far as the cost of the meat that we pre-ordered.”

Muslims big players in American economy

Arab Americans comprise 6 million to 8 million people in the U.S. and Muslim Americans’ purchasing power is estimated to be $170 billion annually, but businesses often fail to recognize their economic power, recent reports suggest. A J. Walter Thompson survey called “Marketing to Muslims” and a study of Arab Americans in southeast Michigan provide a fuller picture of the economic contributions of Arabs and Muslims. Although often associated with Arabs, Muslims represent dozens of ethnic groups, including whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Understanding the differences between ethnicity and religion is one barrier that often confounds advertisers interested in selling to Muslim populations. “We need to educate ourselves and gain a broader understanding of the Muslim population,” said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting for Thompson and one of the authors of the study. The study, which was conducted earlier this year, interviewed 350 Muslim Americans in 20 states. It found: Muslims make up at least 2 percent of the U.S. population and two-thirds are under the age of 40. About 21 percent of Muslim Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 are registered voters, compared with 15 percent of people in that group across the country. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. Muslims are converts to Islam. 71 percent of Muslims believe advertisers rarely show anyone of their faith or ethnicity in advertising. That compares with 34 percent of the general population that believes the same thing. Around 70 percent of American Muslims over 25 have a college education, compared to 26 percent of the general U.S. population. Nationally, the food, finance and apparel industries appear to be the most influential markets for consumers who follow Islam. According to the Thompson study, the global market for halal – food prepared in accordance with Islamic law – is worth an estimated $580 billion annually. A study released by Wayne State University in Detroit titled “Arab America Economic Contribution Study” examined that population in southeast Michigan, finding that Arab Americans account for 6 percent of the work force and between $5.4 billion and $7.7 billion in earnings there. “In the U.S., the Arab and Muslim communities are small but generally very affluent and highly entrepreneurial,” Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Arab American Chamber of Commerce, said last week. Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East – about 400,000 in metropolitan Detroit and 500,000 throughout the state.

Rewriting the ad rules for Muslim Americans

Consumer companies and advertising executives are focusing on new ways to reach out to Muslim consumers in the United States. Grocers and consumer product companies are considering ways to adapt to Muslim dietary prescriptions, including the concern over the use of gelatin and pig fat often used in food, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Retailers are looking to provide more conservative skirts – not just in the colder months, but in summer too, hoping to appeal to Muslim women conscious of modest apparel. Companies in the Detroit area, with one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, are making some visible changes in their stores. A McDonald’s there serves halal Chicken McNuggets, the Walgreens has signs in both English and Arabic, and the local Ikea has been touring local homes and talking to Muslims to figure out their needs. In other cities, stores like Macy’s and Whole Foods, are the increasing number of Muslim-owned companies and media outlets, are allowing some Muslims to feel increasingly validated, and a bit less othered.

The Muslim Council of Britain’s expectations: “Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools”

The Muslim Council of Britain launched its information and guidance document for schools entitled ‘Towards Greater Understanding- Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools’ on Wednesday 21 February. Based on best practice, the document gives information and guidance on how schools can respond positively to some commonly raised issues concerning Muslim pupils including halal food, dress code, Ramadan, provision for prayers, collective worship etc.

Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving with halal turkeys

WASHINGTON – Mohammad Malik, owner of Bismillah Halal Meat in Langley Park, doesn’t have Thanksgiving off. He will spend the day in his store, cooking the food his Muslim customers want for the holiday – lamb and goat roasts and pound after pound of rice. But recently, more people have come in requesting something different: turkey. “I guess more and more people getting into that tradition,” said Mr. Malik, 34, of Gaithersburg. “Just as an American, they are celebrating Thanksgiving. I guess more people, Muslim people, are going, ‘Why not have a turkey?”‘ Although there is still no nationwide distributor of turkeys that are “halal,” or slaughtered according to Islamic law, halal food stores in Maryland and around the country report increasing demand for the birds as more Muslims immigrate to the United States and assimilate into the mainstream. In 2000, Maryland had an estimated 52,867 Muslims, the eighth-highest population of any state, according to the Glenmary Research Center, a leading religion research group. Most of the state’s Muslim population is concentrated in Baltimore and suburban Washington. Like the Pilgrims who first stepped onto Plymouth Rock centuries ago, Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar’s Food Market in Columbia, is an immigrant who fled persecution for a new world. Now a citizen, he left Iran during the revolution more than 20 years ago, but was constantly drawn back to his homeland because he had a good job there. “I had to choose, American or Iran,” he said. “When I decide I want to be an American, I read about Thanksgiving and I say, ‘OK, why not?”‘ Some Muslim immigrants refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving at first, thinking it is a Christian holiday that does not apply to them, Mr. Sizar said. But as they become more informed about American culture, they understand the tradition. “Thanksgiving is a nice holiday and it has very good message, you know,” said Mr. Sizar, 46. “It is a time to bring everybody together and it is not something that belongs to the religion.” Last year, Mr. Sizar took 35 orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year he had 50 orders a week before the holiday. He’ll probably order 75 from his distributor, American Halal Meat in Springfield, Va., and still run out, he said. Although it was too early to tell a week before Thanksgiving, Mr. Malik estimated he would take more turkey orders this year as well. Years ago, one of Mr. Sizar’s Muslim friends who did not celebrate the holiday asked him why he did. “I said there was nothing wrong,” Mr. Sizar said. “I am Muslim but I am American, you know?”

US Muslims fight halal meat scam. Some stores sell meat that is falsely labelled as Halal

Of the many ways Musa Abdus Salaam could break the tenets of his Muslim faith, eating a cheeseburger might seem the least threatening. But one year ago, not long after he and his family dined on beef he purchased from a shop in Norfolk, Virginia, Abdus-Salaam learned they had unwittingly violated the Quran: His investigation revealed the store’s meat was not halal. “It is a major sin in our religion,” Abdus-Salaam said. Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher, a method of slaughtering, blessing and preparing food to purify it. Believers are willing to pay a premium for halal, and across the US, states and localities are targeting unscrupulous dealers who prey on their dietary devotion. The state of Virginia, home to 350,000 Muslims, is weighing three proposals. One would make selling halal knockoffs a misdemeanour punishable by up to $500 in fines. “In my research, I realised that Virginia does not have a programme to certify kosher or other religious foods,” said Kenneth Alexander, a state legislator who sponsored the bill at his constituents’ request. Fines or jail Other legislation would force vendors to offer certification information and a toll-free number or website for confirmation of halal and kosher foods. Violators could face up to six months in jail and $1000 in fines. The bills are pending in legislative committees. Last summer, New York enacted a law requiring halal food distributors to register with the state. Pending legislation would fine vendors caught possessing mislabelled halal items. Similar codes are on the books in a handful of states, including California, Illinois and Michigan, despite the misgivings of some who maintain that state governments should not be policing religious laws. In Virginia, growing communities are bringing Muslim needs to the forefront, said Imad Damaj, president of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs. Growing numbers He pointed to a 1994 survey that found 11 mosques between Richmond and northern Virginia. “Now there’s no less than 45,” he said, adding that the 9-11 attacks highlighted the American Muslim presence. “Now the community is more higher profile and more under the microscope, too.” Halal foods are vital for the expanding group. Halal means lawful and applies to anything from lunch meat to potato chips, depending on things such as additives and what something’s cooked in. Seafood is automatically halal while pork automatically is not. Other meats undergo a complex procedure. The Muslim population in the US is increasing Generally, the butcher must invoke the name of Allah while cutting the live animal’s neck; once the blood has drained and the animal’s heart stops, Abdus Salaam said, it is halal. Years ago, he was among many residents who travelled as far as Philadelphia to find properly prepared cuisine. Now halal foods – and their lookalikes – are popping up in grocery store meat cases, on carryout menus and in fast food drive-throughs. Difficult to decipher Scams have become common. Some vendors will blend regular meat with a little halal meat to justify Muslim-friendly labels and higher prices. Others simply lie, preying on Muslims’ trust and devotion, said Habib Ghanim Sr, president of the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not like Third World countries, where you can just slaughter a lamb in your back yard and feed the family,” he said, pointing out that halal meat has no special smell or appearance. “You wouldn’t know the difference.” His group is one of several sniffing out fakers. They ask questions such as which supplier one uses – guaranteed to trip up vendors unfamiliar with the tight-knit community of halal butchers and slaughterhouses. Sometimes it pays off. In 1997, authorities fined Springfield’s Washington Lamb Inc $10,000 after they found that the company was falsely claiming its products were halal. Federal agriculture officials can pursue litigation against a company for misbranding a product, considered a violation of the federal meat inspection act. Tricky laws “It’s not like Third World countries, where you can just slaughter a lamb in your back yard and feed the family. You wouldn’t know the difference” Habib Ghanim Sr President, USA Halal Chamber of Commerce But creating laws could put state governments in the touchy position of interpreting religious rules, said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He argued that it is up to community members to confront vendors. “That seems to me vastly more powerful an instrument than going and expecting some young district attorney to understand the complexities of this,” he said. Yet, without legal repercussions, proponents argue, it is impossible to ensure phony vendors would not resume business. That troubles Abdus-Salaam. His faith mandates that he ask forgiveness for eating non-halal food and promise never to do it again – a tough proposition with shady vendors pushing phony foods. The regional administrator with the Islamic Political Party of America is promoting Alexander’s law. “In our religion, if we see a wrong, we have to right that wrong,” he said. “We can’t just stand around and wish for it to go away.”

Demand For Halal Food Rises Among U.S. Muslims

By Michael Kress When Shaheda Sayed was growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, her father would occasionally drive 100 miles to slaughter animals so his family could have meat. That’s because the family, devout Muslims, only ate food that was halal – permitted for Muslims. And, in those days, it could not be found in U.S. stores. Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permitted.” It’s used to describe acceptable behavior under Muslim law. When applied to food, the term refers to dietary laws that, among other things, require meat to be slaughtered in a prescribed manner. (Muslim law also sets out actions that are haram, or “prohibited.” These include drinking alcohol and eating pork.) “We never ate in McDonald’s,” Sayed said. So when she grew up, Sayed decided to address the problem. In 1998, she and her brother co-founded Crave Foods, a company that produces halal hamburger patties and frozen prepared dishes, including chicken rolls and spicy wings. The Los Angeles-based company soon will expand its product offerings to include hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks. Halal slaughtering must be done by a pious Muslim who says a prayer immediately prior to the act, uses only healthy animals, slaughters each one away from other animals, employs a sharp knife to the neck to ensure a quick death, and lets the blood drain. According to most authorities, slaughtering must be done by hand, not machine. Some companies marketing themselves as halal sell machine-slaughtered poultry – a source of controversy among Muslims. Crave Foods, which now employs about 100 people, exemplifies the growth of the American halal food industry in recent years. Estimates on the size of the industry are hard to come by, but Muslim-friendly restaurants are easier to find than ever before, and packaged halal foods, once found only in ethnic shops, are increasingly stocked by mainstream supermarkets. Sayed might even be able to enjoy a Happy Meal today. Two McDonald’s restaurants in Dearborn, Mich., serve halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches. “The Muslim consumer population is becoming much more savvy, and the market has grown up around them,” said Shahed Amanullah, who runs the Web site zabihah.com, which lists halal restaurants in cities around the world. (“Zabihah” is the word for the type of slaughter that makes meat halal.) “Muslims are starting to demand higher quality.” Amanullah’s site started in 1998 with 300 restaurants. Now, it lists more than 3,000 establishments, “everything from Mexican to Brazilian to Philly subs to pizza,” he said. “That diversity only happened in the last year or two.” Still, many Muslims say the industry has a long way to go to fully serve the needs of America’s Muslim community, estimated at anywhere from 2 million to more than 6 million people, and growing quickly. “The halal industry has not reached maturity,” Amanullah said. “There’s a market opportunity there for somebody.” When Muslims can’t find foods that have been certified as halal, they rely on ingredient lists on labels. Or, they look for symbols marking a product as kosher, since the Jewish dietary laws are similar to Muslim ones. But labels sometimes omit ingredients found in minute quantities. Or they’re vague – what, exactly, are “natural flavors”? And the kosher laws, while similar to halal, are not identical: Jews, for example, are not prohibited from consuming alcohol. And halal does not share the kosher ban on mixing meat and dairy ingredients, so relying on kosher symbols can be overly restrictive for Muslims. There are other pitfalls, said Rasheed Ahmed, founder of the Muslim Consumer Group, which educates Muslims about halal products and certifies products as halal. Many Muslims, for example, might eat a fast-food fish sandwich, figuring it’s acceptable since fish need not be slaughtered in any particular way. But if the fish is cooked in the same oil as non-halal meat products, it is haram, Ahmed said. And marshmallows – found in sweetened cereals and other packaged foods – may be made with pork products. As a result of problems like these, many devout Muslims feel they have few choices. “Muslims who are serious about halal have been avoiding mainstream food,” said Muhammad Munir Chaudry, president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, the largest U.S. organization that certifies products as acceptable for Muslims. Chaudry hopes to turn American Muslims from a people of label readers into one of symbol spotters. The council’s symbol, a crescent with the letter “M,” graces the products of nearly 2,000 companies, attesting that they are halal. That’s up from around 50 in 1990, he said. Other groups have their own symbols, such as the Muslim Consumer Group’s “H” in a triangle. “The trend is there,” Chaudry said of halal certification by mainstream food producers. “Companies have realized there’s a good-sized Muslim market here.” For a processed food to be certified as halal, it must pass muster with a certification group such as Chaudry’s. Representatives visit the production plant to inspect the ingredients used as well as the manufacturing and packaging methods. Representatives then revisit at least once a year. For companies that produce meat, the council has a halal supervisor on premises at all times, since the rules for slaughtering meat are complex, Chaudry said. His group’s fees range from about $2,000 a year to as much as $40,000 for large companies for which many products are certified. With the growth of the halal food industry, debates have broken out in the Muslim community over the rules and standards for deeming food acceptable. Must meat be hand-slaughtered or are machines acceptable? Must food businesses be Muslim-owned? Can a restaurant be considered halal if its food is okay but it serves alcohol? For many, such debates signal that the market has grown large enough to give Muslim consumers choices: It’s good if they have the luxury of discussing standards. If all that’s available is, say, machine-slaughtered meat, people wil* make do with what they have,” Sayed said. Increasingly, Muslims do not want to – nor are they forced to – simply make do. Muslims born and raised in America are more likely than their immigrant parents to call companies and request halal certification, Chaudry said. Advocates say certification brings benefits beyond helping America’s Muslims. For one thing, it helps U.S. companies export their products, since some Muslim countries mandate that all imports be halal. And certification can be used to market a product as wholesome. Being halal means a food has no hidden ingredients, and in the case of meat, that it does not come from a giant, automated slaughterhouse. “It’s going back to a simpler way of life,” Sayed said. “What we eat affects who we are and what we are, and our spirituality.” Such arguments were compelling to Cabot Cheese, a Vermont-based company that received certification in December 2003. The idea came up when company officials were discussing their kosher status, and the decision was based largely on demographics: Cabot services Northeast cities such as New York and Boston, which have large and quickly growing numbers of Muslims, as well as their Jewish populations. But the company was looking beyond these religious communities, hoping that kosher and halal certification sent a message to all consumers looking for healthy, natural foods. “If these foods are made in such a way that they can be both kosher and halal, it just speaks to a certain attention to detail and attention to food quality,” said Jed Davis, Cabot’s marketing director. “A lot of times, customers are looking for that type of third-party endorsement.” Becoming halal did not involve changing any Cabot products, so it’s “an inexpensive way of potentially dramatically increasing the market for our products,” Davis said. For now, Cabot’s decision is a minority one. Though finding halal food has become easier in recent years, many American food manufacturers still aren’t rushing to certify their products – at least, not yet. “But we are educating them,” said Ahmed of the Muslim Consumer Group
.

A Taste For Halal Meat; Butchers Using Traditional Islamic Slaughtering Practices Find Niche In Market

For three hours, Imad Rababe helped slit the throats of more than 100 goats and lambs at his white cinderblock slaughterhouse near Hagerstown, murmuring a quick blessing to Allah with each flick of his sharpened knife then immediately hoisting the animals by their feet on hooks to drain the blood. It’s a tough business, Rababe said. Turnover is high among his eight employees, most of them Muslim immigrants who could not find other jobs. In addition to teaching them the Islamic style of slaughter, Rababe must also shop for livestock, drum up business, track orders and collect payments — often using his limited English to communicate with customers who do not speak Arabic. But as the Washington area’s Muslim population grows, so do Rababe’s moneymaking opportunities. Because the Koran instructs mankind to eat meat that is “halal,” the Arabic word for lawful, devout Muslims are willing to pay a premium for the type of product Rababe sells at his Hamzah Slaughter House LLC in Williamsport. These days, more than 140 of the region’s restaurants and grocery stores advertise themselves as halal, according to Zabihah.com, a Web site that posts reviews of halal food establishments across the country. When Rababe, a native of Lebanon, arrived in the United States in 1978, only a few did. Now at least three major halal meat suppliers serve the region, including Rababe, who says he slaughters 500 to 700 animals a week for his wholesale and retail customers. “Look, I’m not from Harvard. I have no high school education, no nothing,” said Rababe, a practicing Muslim who learned the trade from his father in Lebanon. “But this is the business I know best. It serves the Muslim community, and it makes me financially comfortable.” The fledgling halal business remains far less established than the kosher trade, its Jewish cousin, and there are no reliable estimates of how much halal meat is sold in the Washington area. But it is no longer relegated to traditional kabob houses or ethnic grocery stores either, as new immigrants and others seek out products consistent with their religious practice. Pizza Roma in College Park serves pizzas with halal meat toppings, and Double A Burgers & Shakes in Springfield Mall offers “homemade, halal burgers hot off the grill.” Some Giant Food and Shoppers Food Warehouse stores stock frozen halal chicken nuggets and other products from Al Safa Halal Inc. in Canada. Even the White House does its part, ordering halal for visiting Muslim dignitaries. “For decades we conformed because we really didn’t have much choice” when it came to meeting Islamic dietary needs, said Muhammad Chaudry, president of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, a nonprofit group in Chicago that certifies halal meat. “That’s changing.” Mohammad Abdul-Mateen Chida, owner of Halalco Supermarket in Falls Church, recalled how he slaughtered his own chickens when he arrived in the United States in the mid-1960s, for lack of better options. A decade later, when he started selling meat at Halalco, he scoured the region for a place that would allow him to slaughter animals for his retail customers. He ended up slaughtering cattle in Baltimore, goats and lambs in Manassas, and chickens near Frederick. But it wasn’t an easy sell, he said. Most plants scoffed at disrupting their production lines for a low-volume slaughter that would generate little money for them, Chida said. “Now there are so many places I trust to do these things for me,” Chida said. In Islam, the Koran bans followers from eating swine, carnivores and birds of prey no matter how they are slaughtered. Muslims are allowed to eat other animals that meet two requirements, said Imam Mahmoud Abdel-Hady of Dar al-Taqwa mosque in Columbia: They must be slaughtered from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned as the animals are killed. From the hadith — compendiums on how the Muslim prophet Muhammed lived– Muslims are also taught that animals must be well rested, fed wholesome foods and handled in a way that minimizes suffering during slaughter, Abdel-Hady said. That is why the butcher must use a sharp knife and prevent one animal from witnessing the slaughter of another, he said. It is undesirable to sever the animal’s neck because preserving the spinal cord is less painful to the animal and maintains the convulsive movements necessary to rapidly drain its blood — another requirement, according to the Islamic Center in the District. The time involved and the labor-intensive requirements boost the price of halal meat, said Jim Williams of Midamar Corp., a Muslim-owned halal meat company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Midamar has 92 customers in the Washington area. Some cuts of halal beef can be as much as 20 cents a pound more expensive than the mass-produced beef slaughtered by the conventional “stun and stick” method, Williams said. Adding to the price is the cost of hiring a company to certify meat as halal. The extra costs help explain why the four companies that slaughter 80 percent of federally inspected cattle in this country — Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., Excel Corp., Swift & Co. and National Beef Packing Co. — do not do religious slaughter, Williams said. “It slows down their production lines,” he said. “The plants doing a kosher or halal slaughter have to get a premium for their meat because they can’t slaughter as many animals in a day.” Abdul Baig, owner of Pizza Roma in College Park, said the higher price of turkey ham, beef pepperoni and halal chicken breasts cut into his profit, but he said he hopes that as demand for halal grows, so will his pocketbook. He converted to halal agreements slowly after buying the restaurant five years ago. “If I’m going to practice my religion this is all part of it,” said Baig, a Muslim from Pakistan who, for religious reasons, also does not sell alcohol. “I cannot sell food that is not halal or sell beer and then go home and start praying. I cannot earn money from something that is not allowed.” The halal business is fraught with marketing headaches, many stemming from well-founded apprehension among Muslim consumers about the authenticity of products marketed as halal. In 1997, the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service fined Washington Lamb Inc. in Springfield $15,000 for fraudulently mislabeling and selling ordinary meats as halal, after the owner pleaded guilty to related charges in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, according to the agency. Because of similar problems, California, New Jersey and four other states have enacted laws fining anyone who sells or advertises meat as halal when it is not. A group of Muslims in Virginia is pushing for similar legislation in their state, said Habib Ghanim Sr., president of the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, which distributes information about halal meat and non-meat products from its offices in the District and Silver Spring. The group has 30 members, mostly meat and poultry companies, Ghanim said. Part of the problem is that there is no standard authority to certify halal meat and poultry. Slaughterhouses that sell halal meat are inspected by the Agriculture Department, but the agency oversees only food safety issues. Certification is left to dozens of individuals or groups, some more reputable than others. Then there are issues open to interpretation. Can the slaughterhouse pipe in recorded prayers to make the lines move faster? If halal meat is not available, would a prayer before eating suffice? Can a company’s meat be halal if its owner or workers are not Muslim? “It’s a very sensitive topic, and there are many issues that need to be resolved,” Ghanim said. “The final responsibility is on the person selling it who claims it to be halal. Ultimately, it is between him and his creator.” Al Safa, the Canadian company that supplies frozen halal products to area stores, initially was involved in controversy when word got out that its owner is an orthodox Jew. But, according to many Muslims who sell Al Safa products, the company overcame doubts when it hired Muslims to do its marketing and slaughtering. Al Safa also adopt
ed an open-door policy under which anyone can visit its facilities unannounced, said Steve Hahn, the company’s vice president. The policy includes the three plants where its Muslim slaughter teams work. “We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of [mostly Muslim] visitors to witness our slaughter” since Al Safa started selling halal products in 1997, Hahn said. But it will probably take time for halal meats to gain a foothold in conventional supermarkets because many halal-meat shoppers feel more comfortable shopping in ethnic stores, Hahn said. Giant, which carries Al Safa products in only 15 stores nationwide, said that the line sold well when it was introduced about two years ago but that sales waned when coupon offers and other promotions ended. Malik Abbas, owner of Pakeeza Market in Gaithersburg, said reputation plays a key role in the halal marketplace. Before he opened his store about three years ago, he would drive far from his home in Gaithersburg to butchers he trusted in Baltimore or Virginia. “My wife would prefer to stay hungry if she can’t find the halal meat,” said Abbas, a Muslim from Pakistan. But Abbas said many of his customers are not necessarily driven by faith. Some come because they swear halal meat has a different taste, he said. Others come because they believe halal meat is more wholesome. Sayeed Quraishi, a retired scientist at the National Institutes of Health, comes to Pakeeza Market because of the mutton chops. They’re hard to find elsewhere. But if he is in the mood for chicken, he picks up Perdue. As Abbas wrapped up Quraishi’s mutton chops, six in one-pound packages, Quraishi apologized to his friend for his bluntness. “You will probably go to heaven,” Quraishi told Abbas. “And I will be your servant.”