LONDON - An umbrella Muslim group has accused the local government of the British county of Lancashire of providing pupils with illegitimate halal meat, calling for boycotting the food.
"The county council should pick suppliers who are accredited to the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Hanif Dudhwala, of the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM), told the BBC News Online on Thursday, November 29.
And until they can find those suppliers there is no reason why they cannot give Muslim children vegetarian options or fish options until they find a supplier we can endorse from the council of mosques."
The LCM says food provided to Muslim pupils does not meet the halal standards set by the council.
It sent letters to Muslim parents in Lancashire, urging them to prevent their children from eating food at their schools.
Suppliers of halal products are not accredited by any halal certifying organization that is in line with the halal criteria adopted by the LCM, one letter says.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
The LCM said that school suppliers do not meet their Halal criteria for meat killed in line with Islamic tenets.
We strongly feel that Lancashire County Council is doing a great injustice to the Muslim community and young Muslim children by feeding them meat and chicken which have not been endorsed by the LCM, the council said in a statement.
Muslim children in their thousands have been victims of this in the past and we will not let this happen again.
But the local government defended its position of providing meat to school pupils.
We are 100 percent certain that our new suppliers will provide fully-accredited Halal food that meets stringent food safety standards, county council leader Geoff Driver said.
He argued that the council would not use suppliers who do not stun animals before slaughtering.
"This is acceptable to Muslims in the rest of the country and I am really, really sorry if the Lancashire Council of Mosques won't accept that, he said.
We understand from the Food Standards Agency, which consults with national Muslim bodies, that there are a number of acceptable Halal certifying agencies.
All of our suppliers' products are certified by such agencies.
Halal slaughter has been the subject of controversy in several European countries, where pro-animal groups seek to ban the ritual slaughter on grounds that it causes unnecessary pain to the animal.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah's creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
The current laws in Britain allow slaughtering animals without prior stunning to enable Jewish people and Muslims to meet the dietary requirements of their faiths.
Khawaya Mahsood, President of LCM's Halal Food Authority, said halal slaughter is dictated by the Qur'an and British laws.
It's only a group of people on their own sitting down making the law, which is against the spirit of British law and that of Muslim law, he said.Britain has a Muslim community of nearly 2.5 million.