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Creeping anti-Sharia: Cranmer on Brunei and Subway

The term ‘Sharia’ is made to do a great deal of work.  Not only does it cover several different areas (finance, law and food for example) but Muslims’ interpretations of what might constitute true Sharia within each aspect of life vary considerably.

A recent post from Cranmer illustrates this variety.  It opens with the appalling recent news from Brunei, where death by stoning is now the official punishment for homosexuality, and other ‘crimes’ will result in floggings and amputations. Obviously this is a hugely troubling development, and Cranmer echoes the horror of many – although not some of the more depraved commentators at 5Pillarz.

But he then segues rather surreally into a discussion of – Subway.

There is no problem at all – bar those concerns relating to animal welfare – with a commercial food chain like Subway catering for Muslim tastes in Tower Hamlets, as one might expect them to cater for Jewish proclivities in Golders Green or Sikh cravings in Southall.

Except, of course, where they do offer kosher meat, non-Jewish customers are given the choice of a hearty BLT baguette; and Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Hare Krishnas are able to choose the vegetarian option should they so desire.

This isn’t entirely correct.  In the US there are a few fully kosher branches where no dairy products (let alone pork) are permitted.

There’s no ham, pepperoni, bacon or regular cheese on the menu. Lichy has come up with other substitutes like Mexican turkey, beef fry and soy cheese. He added Jewish favorites like corned beef and pastrami.
You can still order the Italian B.M.T. But instead of the Genoa salami, pepperoni and ham, it comes with kosher salami, Mexican turkey and turkey pastrami

Here’s another link on this topic. Subway also has two fully vegetarian restaurants (both in India).

Cranmer complains:

Non-Muslim customers are somewhat limited in their selection of sandwich filling because, Subway say, of a “strong demand” from Muslims. Quite how strong isn’t entirely clear.

Many non-Muslims (though not Sikhs) don’t mind eating halal food, particularly when, as is the case with Subway’s meat, it has been pre-stunned.  That Subway quote, ‘strong demand’, is used repeatedly in the post.  We aren’t given the full context, but it might reasonably be interpreted to mean that there is a market for halal food.  But the phrase is then twisted – demand becomes more than the flip side of supply. It is pointed out that Subway offers no kosher stores in the UK

probably because, like the Christians, [Jews] have made no “strong demand”.

Here that Muslim ‘demand’ has become more actively troublesome, perhaps a bit more aggressive, rather than just a natural process relating to market forces – fifty years ago it would be difficult to find a health food shop or vegetarian restaurant, but now ‘demand’ has ensured that there are plenty.

Cranmer concludes by suggesting that Christians should make their own ‘demands’.

Since the Church has largely gone Trappist, maybe Christians need a new flexible mechanism for making “strong demands” on commercial enterprises and political parties[.]

Although the phrase is still in quotation marks, changing ‘demand’ to ‘demands’ completes the process whereby the Muslim market becomes a belligerent, encroaching force, actively requiring unreasonable concessions.  The plural was retained in this tweet:

‘It’s not surrender to capitalism: it’s acquiescence to the ‘strong demands’ of a vocal religious minority’

The shift from ‘demand’ to ‘demands’ can be found elsewhere. On this site ‘demands’ is used in the headline, the more accurate ‘strong demand’ only in the text. ‘Strong demands’ also appears in this petition.

This report suggests that Subway is actively interested, for commercial purposes, in finding out what its customers prefer.  In opting to make some stores halal, it is simply trying to woo Muslim customers, and break into a new market, not ‘succumbing to sharia’.

Subway has revealed that when a new store opens, a survey of surrounding communities is undertaken, and if there is a significant demand from Muslim communities, pork meat will be removed and all other meats offered will be halal.

While most people won’t deny that the Brunei news is much more alarming than the Subway story, some still insist that it’s important to be alert to ‘the thin end of the wedge’ – the dangers of ‘Sharia creep’.  But there is also perhaps a danger of ‘anti-Sharia creep’, if people start making a fuss over things even they don’t really think that important.  Muslims (and others) who may be persuaded that there is a serious point to be made about segregation, wills, or courts, let alone hudud punishments, are likely to start suspecting that Islam is being viewed with disproportionate scrutiny if ‘turkey ham’ become a prompt for end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it horror.