Working Paper 200

Negotiating Ḥalāl Consumption: The Interplay of Legitimacy, Trust, and Religious Authority

Abdelghafar Salim, Leonie Stenske 

Department ‘Law & Anthropology’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 200

The term ḥalāl as used in the context of Europe’s food production industry is not congruent with the religious sense and the translation of the term as it is explained by Islamic legal scholars. In the food industry ḥalāl seems to represent a kind of religious branding, especially in non-Muslim societies, that indicates a product meets the dietary needs of a specific group, i.e., Muslims. This discrepancy in the way the term is used raises questions of religious authority, legitimacy, and trust among the actors involved. On the basis of an ethnographic case study conducted in Leipzig, a city located in Eastern Germany, this paper investigates how practicing Muslims negotiate ḥalāl-complaint consumption in a non-majority Muslim society. By looking at the social and legal context in which Muslims are embedded, the paper argues that the legal constraints of ḥalāl slaughter in Germany, on the one hand, and the lack of centralized Muslim authority, on the other, influence Muslims’ consumption behavior. The paper concludes by arguing that the principle of trust seems to be the most important aspect when purchasing ḥalāl products and it can to some extent outweigh the legitimacy of the ḥalāl certificate. In addition, the paper delivers novel insights into the way Muslim actors negotiate normative orders (šarīʿa and state-centered law), especially the issue of ḥalāl and ‘ḥalālness’, within the complex context of a non-Muslim society.

Go to Editor View