Why I believe today’s Muslims should support veganism

Being born in a Syrian family in which all main dishes feature meat and all desserts contain milk, I never thought I would ever end up being in favour of veganism. My eating habits mainly consisted of loads of lattes, meat, eggs, cheese and chicken; basically the typical food list of a “meatlover”. I can name only very few Syrian vegetarian dishes. In a world where kebbeh – a famous Syrian dish made of meat and filled with meat – is king of dishes and riz bil halib – rice pudding – is its queen; voices of vegetarians can hardly be heard.

The reason why I decided to take a step back is mainly ethical. As a Muslim, I believe mankind must take responsibility and defend the weakest. People however often forget that these weaklings are not only human beings. Even though I am convinced we still don’t care enough about poverty-stricken people and victims of injustice, I also find that we are barely preoccupied by other weak beings who also need our help: animals.
For all Muslims, it goes without saying that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) called on us to treat animals right. Everyone knows the story of the old lady who used to neglect her cat and ended up being doomed to hellfire. Or the man in the desert who gave water to a thirsty dog. Some of you may also know that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would first eat fruit (mostly dates) and afterwards he would eat other foods, and he actually didn’t eat that much.

But what now, and how, in our society?

What can we do about the 180 million chickens that are each year thrown into grinding machines, because they have no economic value? How can I eat supermarket eggs when I know the chickens who laid them are probably piled up in a tiny space without any freedom or capacity of movement?
How can I drink milk if its cow has to deliver milk more than 300 days a year for us, while little calves who are brutally taken away from their mothers deserve that milk more than we do?

The meat industry – which Muslims fortunately have less contact with – shoots down animals in front of each other, without being preoccupied about all the panic and dismay these animals must be feeling.

It is because I am a Muslimah that I believe we must stand up for animals’ rights. I am not per se against eating eggs, meats and milk, but I am opposed to the way these are processed by multinationals, without paying any attention to the condition of these cows, chickens or lambs. This is why I try my hardest to be aware of what I eat and where it comes from.

I feel so much better and more energetic now that my diet is mostly plant-based, and I am certain God’s words support me:
“He causes to grow for you thereby herbage, and the olives, and the palm trees, and the grapes, and of all the fruits; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect” (Q16:11)

As Muslims we cannot remain silent against injustice, this is why I choose to promote veganism as a rebellion against the meat industries. I choose this because I have respect for every single one of God’s creatures, not only human beings.

Written by Mayada Srouji

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Mayada Srouji is a 23-year-old student Gender and Diversity at the UGent and has a bachelor in Arabic and Islamic Sciences, with a minor in political and social sciences. She is interested in women rights, philosophy, literature and history.