Vermont suffers from a shortage of slaughterhouses. More rare still in the Green Mountains? Bona fide Islam-approved butchers. Regardless of your religion, "processing" animals is a tough business. A second-generation American Muslim struggles with his identity, too, when he takes over the family slaughterhouse in New York City in the documentary film A Son's Sacrifice. The movie screens Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in UVM's Memorial Lounge.
For religion professor and event sponsor Sufia Uddin, the event is not just recommended viewing for her "Islam in the U.S." course: It's personal. The subject of the film is her brother, Imran Uddin.
Imran had already earned a degree in advertising from Clark University when he switched careers and took over the butcher business from his father. Now he's the manager and also slaughters animals in a way that renders the meat "halal," or permissible under Muslim law.
Waell Murray, a Palestine native and owner of Global Markets on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington, explains the killing technique. The throats of the animals must be slit, and "you cannot mention anything else but God's name" during the process, which he refers to as "slaughtering in the name of Allah." Murray actually slaughters animals and sells the meat to a few select customers - he takes orders for halal Thanksgiving turkeys in November. But he can't provide for everybody who wants their meat blessed. Those who aren't able to take advantage of his services often find their meat in Montréal, but they risk having it confiscated at the border. Murray knows of a family who lost beef and chicken valued at more than $200 when a customs agent searched their vehicle.
Finding appropriate food stuffs is only one of the many challenges of practicing Islam in the U.S. The film delves into some of the deeper concerns. Uddin explains that it's about "how to maintain your Muslim culture while still being an American."
How will the film be received in Vermont, with its notorious lack of ethnic diversity? "It's a wonderful population up here, and people are hungry for more knowledge of other cultures," Uddin says. Attention, local vegans and vegetarians: You may want to sit this one out.