“Qurbani—that's our biggest holiday of the year. We go through hundreds of goat and lamb in a day. This is my chance to prove that I'm worthy to run this business.”
At first glance, Imran Uddin is just another 27-year-old New Yorker struggling to take over his family's business—what's unique is that his father's business is a "pick-your-own" slaughterhouse. The son of an immigrant, Imran must confront his mixed Bangladeshi-Puerto Rican heritage and gain acceptance from his father's conservative Muslim community. On one of Islam's holiest days, Imran must lead a sacrifice that will define him as a Muslim, as an American and as a son.
During the holiday of Eid-al-Adha, also known as Qurbani, Muslims are commanded to slaughter a goat, lamb or bull to honor the Koranic story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. The event draws hundreds of families to the Uddins' slaughterhouse in Queens, New York City. The annual celebration holds symbolic meaning for the fathers who pass this tradition on to their sons. The slaughter also means grueling work, and Imran's efforts to manage the slaughterhouse culminate with his preparation for the Qurbani holiday. Yet, even as he toils, Imran, who is the son of a Bangladeshi father and a Puerto Rican mother, is challenged as not being "Muslim enough" by some of the slaughterhouse clients.
A SON'S SACRIFICE traces Imran's journey to convince himself, his father and his Muslim brethren that he is a part of their community. Produced by a Muslim-Jewish filmmaking team, the Uddin family's intergenerational story speaks to the shared experience of the children of immigrants.
What is halal?
For Muslims, the word halal describes what is lawful in Islam. Halal dietary laws dictate certain conditions for the preparation of meat, namely that slaughtering must be done by a Muslim who recites the name of God over the animal. The animal’s veins and arteries must be severed at the neck and the blood must be allowed to leave the body. The sharpness of the knife and the isolation of the slaughtering are stressed, so as to take the animal’s life in the most painless and respectful way. Halal laws also describe the types of animals and foods that are lawful for consumption, the main prohibition being swine.
What is Eid or Qurbani?
One of the most important holidays on the Muslim calendar is Eid al Adha (The Festival of Sacrifice), or Qurbani, as Muslims from South Asia often refer to it. The holiday marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. On that day, Muslims celebrate the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son for God, as well as his son’s submission to the task. In the story, common to Jews and Christians as well, God rewards father and son and relieves them of their burden by putting a ram in the son’s place.
Muslims commemorate the story by sacrificing an animal, usually a goat or lamb, on the holiday. Families are allowed to keep as much as one-third of the meat, and the rest is donated to the needy. The celebrations on Eid and the days following differ around the world, but they are sure to include plenty of feasting with family.
Filmmakers Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed provided updates in December 2007 on what the family in A SON'S SACRIFICE has been up to since filming ended:
Imran has taken over the slaughterhouse with gusto, thinking of creative ways to market his services and streamline the operation. He has expanded the slaughterhouse to an adjacent building and is planning to distribute his "Madani" brand of halal meat nationwide. His father, Riaz, has taken a less active role, devoting more of his time to spiritual reflection and community work.
The family has been very active in supporting our outreach efforts, and they have spoken at festivals and organized university screenings on our behalf.
In spring 2007, the Uddin family, with filmmakers Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed, transformed their slaughterhouse into "HalalFest," a block party celebrating the New York premiere of A SON'S SACRIFICE at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. A rock band, traditional Bangladeshi youth dancers and break dancers filled the yard where goats and sheep normally graze. Donated yellow schoolbuses brought Manhattanites into the netherworld of Queens where visitors tasted halal food from neighborhood Bengali and West Indian restaurants. The event culminated with a free screening of the film for the local community and slaughterhouse customers.
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