Veganism is relatively unheard of in most Muslim communities beyond the west and parts of Europe, according to Elysia Ward and Sammer Hakim – the two founders of The Vegan Muslim Initiative.
The Initiative – which is a global organization based out of Canada and Australia – aims to ‘educate Muslim communities worldwide about the benefits of veganism’.
Its founders told PBN: “We aspire to change attitudes, deep-seated traditions and many cultural beliefs surrounding the consumption of meat, the treatment of animals and how these changes can benefit health and the environment.”
Meat and Islam
According to Ward and Hakim: “The general consensus, if one was to ask, would be that eating meat is important, necessary and even an obligation in Islam….which of course is completely untrue.
“There is nothing at all in Islam that mandates the consumption of ANY animal products.
“With the internet and general spreading of veganism becoming mainstream, there is definitely a growth, and with the younger generations being more aware and curious and eager for change, we feel somewhat optimistic that it will grow within our communities just as in the general public.
“We know we are fighting a huge uphill battle, but we are committed and will keep pushing!”
The organization was born of the founders’ mutual desire to make change. That desire has now grown into a community boasting around 3,600 members from around the world.
It’s important to Ward and Hakim to reach new people with the message – those who may not otherwise have heard about veganism, or its benefits.
They do this through a number of platforms, saying: “Along with our group (The Vegan Muslim Community) and page (The Vegan Muslim Initiative) we also have a growing website (veganmuslims.com).
“We are working continuously to put out information, looking for individuals who are willing to contribute to the cause whether it be by writing articles, donating time in developing materials, media etc.”
As with anyone fighting to make change, Ward and Hakim have come up against negative pushback.
“We have encountered many, many individuals who are clearly against what we are trying to do,” they told PBN.
“Most claiming that one can never be a vegan and a Muslim at the same time. A great part of the hate and negativity has come to us surrounding our stance on NOT sacrificing animals during Eid.
“That alone has stirred things up very much, but we take it all with a grain of salt because we realize that what we are trying to do is going against so many generations of tradition and culture.”
But their success so far has outweighed any negative pushback.
“We are grateful to have managed to at least open up the discussion with those who may never have thought of leaving meat off their plate,” they say.
“We are happy that we can offer support and help those wanting to change.
“Offer them a community where they can feel empowered to learn and in turn educate those around them as a vegan Muslim.”
The founders plan to keep growing the platform and spreading awareness.
They are looking to increase their number of contributors, and also want to add to their resource materials, including making printed media for distribution.
Importantly, Ward and Hakim will continue to maintain the organization’s atmosphere of inclusivity, saying: “Although we are Muslim, we are open and accepting of all faiths.
“A small peek into our group will show that we have a very diverse group of people following us. We all are working towards the same goal.”