To the editor:
City Councilor Del Pepper’s remark about the Halal poultry butchery, that “we need to share with our Muslim friends and neighbors that we welcome them in this community,” is mystifying to me and insulting to those who opposed the slaughterhouse on Colvin Street.
I’ve lived here more than 30 years. During all that time I have never seen any woman wearing any clothing identifiable as Muslim be harassed or disrespected in any way in any public place in Alexandria, nor any man either, although they’re less easily identifiable. I’ve never asked anyone if that person was Muslim, just as I never ask the religion of anyone I know. I’ve never heard anyone else ask that question either.
Sometimes on Friday afternoon I see worshippers coming and going from a Christian Church near the corner of Janneys and Quaker lanes. Obviously they are there because they answered the Muslim call to prayer and the church has afforded them space to worship. Other churches in other neighborhoods may do the same. I just haven’t observed them.
There may be some in the city who hate people who are different; evidently some sent emails to council. You don’t even have to live in Alexandria to do that. None of them showed their faces at the public hearing on this issue. I observed the public testimony because I was waiting for hearings on other docket items.
All those who spoke against approving the slaughterhouse spoke about the competing uses that would be affected such as dog care establishments and I believe also a commercial bakery. No one criticized any religion or mentioned religion as a reason to oppose the permit.
Yet when the public testimony was closed, Councilor Mo Seifeldein immediately began speaking at length saying that opposition was based on religious prejudice. I voted for him at the last election. I support diversity and I thought it would be good to have a lawyer on the council. Since Seifeldein is a lawyer, I expected him to listen carefully to all public testimony and make reasoned, responsive arguments if he disagreed.
Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, when she spoke in opposition before the vote, correctly identified this matter as a land use issue and Councilor Amy Jackson expressed justified concerns about increased traffic. The vice mayor had made site visits to similar slaughter establishments as far away as Philadelphia. She observed strong noxious odors at some sites.
The council majority countered that the windowless slaughterhouse will have a good ventilating system. I’m sure it will. The ventilator will make things comfortable for the workers and living chickens. It will collect the smelly stale air and blow it out of the building. The outside ventilator for my clothes dryer collects damp air and blows it outside. The clean laundry smell is not nearly as pungent as the smells from a slaughter house, but they are clearly detectable in the yard.
-Katy Cannady, Alexandria