I realize that many of the fine folks engaged in the various sectors of animal agriculture tend to lean conservative on a lot of issues. That’s fine; intelligent people can always agree to disagree.
I know — I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve found myself on the “wrong” side of political discussions at industry conferences and trade shows over the years.
But as been noted in this space (and practically every other online commentary written in the last 10 years), public discourse too often devolves from debate into argumentation, and from there, into expressions of hatred toward “the other,” however the target group du jour is defined.
One prominent target is Muslims, and there have been hundreds of documented instances of threats made and personal attacks on people practicing the religion of Islam. The perpetrators of such vitriol, vandalism and violence always try to link terrorism with Islam, as if the religion itself is the problem.
That’s nonsense, because if that analysis were true, then we’d have to blame nearly all of Christianity — and by extension, the majority of Christians — for the bombings, terror attacks and subsequent reprisals that took place for decades between Catholic and Protestant extremists in Ireland, England and Northern Ireland.
An Attack, And a Response
But let’s not re-hash that debate. Instead, let’s examine a far more positive story, one of tolerance and respect, a tale that not only showcases the character of so many people in animal agriculture and meat processing, but one that exemplifies what it really means to be an American.
The story, as reported by the Bangor Daily News, begins with an act of violence in the small town of Troy, Maine, about 50 miles northeast of Lewiston, site of the 1965 Ali-Liston II heavyweight title fight made famous by the “phantom punch.”
The principals in this story, Kathryn Piper and Hussam “Sam” Al-Rawi, are owners of a halal meat company. A few weeks ago, according to the newspaper, “They woke up one morning to see that someone had fired a shotgun through their new sign; they were frightened.”
As the article noted, the sign was located just a few feet from their home, which includes their two children, Hammoudi, 2, and Thurayya, 15 months old.
“[The sign] was peppered with eight holes,” the article stated. “Police believe that the damage likely was caused by a shotgun loaded with buckshot, and the couple feared that it was not a coincidence that they had been targeted.”
That’s because Kathryn and Hussam are Muslims who recently relocated from the Middle East to Maine, where they opened their meat business.
Muslims move to town. Someone takes offense. A shotgun blast “sends a message.”
It’s a scenario as old as burning a cross in front of an African-American family who move into a white neighborhood, and indicative of the same kind of irrational hatred of “others.”
But this story has a heartwarming next chapter.
As the newspaper recounted, following the shotgun attack, the couple “received many cards and letters from people who want them to know that they are sorry about the incident, and who want the family to feel safe and welcome here. Some sent small gifts, like tins of tea and blocks for their children. Farmers and neighbors have stopped by their home to greet them personally and find out more about … the business they started a year ago.”
That business, the Five Pillars Butchery, a reference to the five obligations of practicing Muslims (faith, prayer, charity, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca), has actually enjoyed an increase in sales from new customers purchasing the lamb, goat, chicken, turkey and beef sold by the company.
“The torrent of kindness and good wishes has helped to wash away the fear,” Al-Rawi told the newspaper. “I know this is not Maine. I love people around here. They are friendly. They are caring. They are polite.”
As for the Five Pillars Butchery, its mission is “to serve the highest quality, fresh meat” to local markets, and “to support the local economy by partnering with family-run Maine farms raising pastured animals.
“From local farms to local tables, Five Pillars Butchery is striving to increase local food production and consumption in Maine and New England to help build a more holistic, sustainable community.”
I challenge anyone — anti-industry opponents, animal activists, even misguided people who believe that Muslims in general are a threat to America — to find fault with any of this story: Immigrants come to this country, start a business, employ local people and help sustain family farms and local food production.
Those are positive developments, especially in the aftermath of a violent act of hatred.
We can be proud of both the Five Pillars owners and the people of Maine.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.