Young Muslim Sees Running Family Business as His "Life’s Journey"

The biggest challenge Imran Uddin faced when taking over his
father’s traditional halal slaughterhouse in New York City was earning
the trust of the Muslim community.

“To cater to their needs, provide them with halal, it took a lot of
time and patience for them to be able to trust me. That was the biggest
obstacle that I had to encounter and overcome,” said Uddin in an webchat August 26.

“I’ve made this my life’s journey,” said Uddin, 31, who left a
career in advertising five years ago to take over Madani Halal Lamb,
Goat & Poultry, the business founded by his father, Riaz.

“Once I started, I saw how important it was for the Muslim community
– how much it was necessary for them to be able to have halal
products,” Uddin said.

The Arabic word “halal” means “permissible” and is used for food
prepared in conformity with Islamic rules. Since 1996, Madani Halal has
produced halal meat for Muslims in Ozone Park, a neighborhood in
Queens, although many non-Muslims also purchase Madani products.
(Queens is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City.)

“Serving halal to the community is a very big responsibility one has
to carry,” Uddin said. “It’s not just giving someone a piece of meat;
you’re blessing their meat for them, for them to consume as part of
their religious obligations.”

Some businesses that claim to sell halal products are run by
non-Muslims, Uddin said. “I feel as a Muslim, it’s our obligation, it’s
our birthright, it’s our responsibility as Muslims to provide these
types of businesses and services to the Muslim community.”

Muslims are very supportive of the business and “love the fact that
they can have fresh lamb just like many of them get back home,” he said.

Uddin also urged Muslims to support other Muslim-run businesses and
to invest in “educational systems, schools, mosques, things like that,
whether that is here in America or overseas. It doesn’t matter as long
as the Muslim people are investing in themselves.”

While his father is a Bangladeshi immigrant, Uddin’s mother is
Puerto Rican, and because of that mixed lineage some Muslims initially
were skeptical about his devotion to Islam and thus his commitment to
maintaining a strict halal approach.

“They wondered, am I more like my father or am I more like my Puerto Rican mother?” he said.

Uddin – who was in his 20s when he took over the business after
having been at school and then working in advertising for several years
– also had to win over the company’s employees.

“They were adjusted to one way of doing things and here I came in
with all these changes, so they were a little apprehensive initially,”
he recalled. Among the changes were a computerized inventory and
billing system and a Web site.

Uddin made the choice to go into the business because he was
“feeling unhappy and incomplete in the corporate world. There’s a lot
of activity that goes on that I don’t feel is proper conduct.” In
addition, “I felt that it was time for me to go back to my community,
the Muslim community, and be a part of that.”

Life for Muslims in the United States has “definitely changed since
I was a child,” he said. There is a large Muslim population in his
neighborhood, “and Muslims can walk around feeling proud in their
communities because they have their own schools, they have their own

“Children are being brought up to be American but they will also
maintain their culture and tradition as well as their religious
obligations, so it’s becoming easier,” Uddin said.

Asked how Muslims are viewed by the public at large, Uddin said he
could not generalize because “the United States is a big place” and
each community and individual is different. People in New York City,
for example, are accepting of virtually every race, ethnicity and
religion, he said. Throughout the country “you are going to find those
handful of people who aren’t accepting, but then there’s going to be
even more people who are going to embrace you.”

The public’s reaction to the halal slaughterhouse provides an
example of changing perceptions. When the business opened in 1996,
“Americans were initially very skeptical. … Some of them perceive it
as being barbaric and not very sanitary and gruesome,” Uddin said.

However, Gourmet magazine recently visited Madani Halal and
published an article on the quality of halal meats, “and suddenly it’s
becoming like this new trend that getting fresh is better than buying
at a supermarket,” he said. “There’s a transition going on within the
American community.”

The story of how Imran Uddin struggled to take over the family
business and forge his own identity as an American Muslim was captured
in a documentary film titled A Son’s Sacrifice. See a transcript ( ) of a podcast with the film’s director, Yoni Brook, and the film’s Web site ( ).