Southern Discomfort

Living in the South has its charms: great hospitality, delicious barbeque and Tex-Mex cuisine, a booming economy, cheap cost of living, and rich Southern pride. However, the prospect of Syrian refugees entering the United States has caused a knee-jerk reaction of fear in the South. The subsequent xenophobic response from Southern politicians has upended the image of Southern hospitality. Politicians who sanctimoniously pander about conservative Christian values, yet bar refugees' entry are only fueling ISIS rhetoric. Alabama's governor proudly announced he would not be accepting refugees. An empty claim due to the fact that Alabama has never accepted refugees. Furthermore, Alabama is one of ten states to have passed laws prohibiting the use of Sharia law in US courtrooms. Again, a comically empty claim seeing as though courtrooms are secular.There are exceptions to every status quo. Meet the Alabaman "farmer-philosopher", Frank Randle. You would never guess from his Southern accent, Wrangler jeans, moustache, and white skin that he is the go-to supplier of halal food in Southern Alabama. He caters to Alabaman Muslims of his community along with clients in Atlanta.What is halal food? Islamic law states that followers must eat halal (permissible) foods such as fish, poultry, and lamb. In order to eat nonaquatic foods, there is a very strict set of rules called Dhabihah, which dictates how the animal is slaughtered. Randle ensures all these requirements are met for the animal's slaughter and consumption. He explains that many Muslims in the community are scared to bring live animals into their homes to slaughter for fear of reprisal from Animal Control. So, they come to Randle who insists that his farm is a "judgement-free zone to do what their culture asks them to".Animals die a "happy death" under Randle's tutelage. Randle has been in business for 30 years servicing Islamic dietary needs. He caters to the needs of  Muslim officers at Fort Benning and Maxwell Airbase. In addition, he also sells to professionals from the Arab world visiting the US for conferences in Atlanta. After 30 years of business, Randle believes that Dhabihah is the most humane way to kill an animal. Xenophobes in Randle's community tell him that he's fraternising with "the enemy". Randle counters "It's a free country".Muslims are attracted to the South. It is a prosperous part of the United States. Southern culture is conservative and slow-paced, which many Muslims find analogous to their own culture. However, Islam's biggest critics lie among the Southern States. Refusing refugees is a disservice to American values, and renders the immigrant narrative as a fallacy. Furthermore, the South's very own well-being is at stake. Most Syrians speak English, hold advanced degrees, and are formally trained in science and medicine. In an ageing economy of rapidly retiring baby boomers, more care facilities, service sector jobs, and skilled labour will be in demand to tend to the needs of the old. Pity it would be to turn down fresh talent.Original story from The EconomistA farmer-philosopher who confounds expectations about Islam and outsiders in the South