Due to a growing number of Somali refugees in North Dakota – who also happen to be Muslim – it is only to be expected that cultural differences are going to surface from time to time. And for some residents of Bismarck, that time came last Friday.
Last Friday, September 1st, was the first day of “Eid al-Adha”– a Muslim holiday known as the “festival of the sacrifice”. One web site describes the festival like this:
“Muslims honour the Eid al-Adha as the time Ibrahim – known as Abraham to Jews and Christians – was going to sacrifice his son Isaac. Instead, Abraham was ordered by God to kill an animal instead. The celebrations symbolise Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah and they mark the end of the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca which thousands of Muslims all over the world embark on.”
As part of the annual event:
“Worshippers will usually slaughter a sheep or a goat as part of the festivities…”
And for at least one devoted Muslim Somali living in Bismarck, the religious obligation was no different. Bismarck Police responded to an incident of a sheep being butchered in the parking lot at the North 9th Apartments– an unusual occurrence for locals to see.
In the comments of a Facebook post regarding the incident – on the North Dakota Going Blue page – a firestorm of comments ensued. As of this writing, the post has been shared 803 times and contains 353 comments–many of which are not very pleasant towards those now known as Somali-Americans.
I contacted the Bismarck Police Department today and Lt. Steven Scheuer was kind enough to respond to me in a very timely manner. While a police report of the incident was filed, Lt. Scheuer acknowledged that they are not aware of any laws having been broken. Therefore, no arrests or citations were issued. The matter, however, was referred to the State’s Attorney’s office for review “and clarification going forward”.
Based off of the comments on the Facebook post, I’m guessing that if there’s not a law against it already that many Bismarck residents are going to be calling for one. But is that really necessary? After all, was anybody harmed by the event? Furthermore, it appears to me that it is private property. Policies regarding such an incident should be up to the owner(s) of the property, not the city.
To me, the sheep butchering isn’t anything worth getting upset over. After all, would it really be the first time a dead animal has been on display or butchered in the city limits of Bismarck? I doubt it. I’m guessing that plenty of deer, pheasants, and waterfowl have been.
The argument could certainly be made that if it was a trophy buck it would have been treated quite differently. In that situation, there may have been a gathering of hunters and onlookers issuing congratulations and potentially sharing a beverage of choice in celebration of the North Dakota festival known as Deer Archery Season– which opened at noon last Friday.
I’m choosing not to enter into a discussion at this point about racism, refugee resettlement, assimilation, religious freedom, Sharia Law, or any other hot button issues that could come out of this. For now, I’ll stick to the incident itself.
Would I have suggested a public butchering. No. Should it have been done elsewhere? Probably. But do we need the city dictating whether it occurs or where? Absolutely not. If even a fraction of the residents of the apartments where the slaughtering took place feel like those expressing themselves in the comments on Facebook, I’m guessing that the landlord will ensure that this never happens again. Which is the right way to handle it. It should be their policy to make, not the governments.