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Charlotte Muslims Rush To Sacrifice Goats In York County On Eid Holiday

This weekend, Muslims celebrated Eid-al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), which marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It also honors Prophet Abraham's obedience to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son.

So part of the holiday involves slaughtering an animal - like a cow or a goat - to then distribute the meat to relatives and the poor. For one local farm in York County, South Carolina, the holiday is the busiest day of the year.

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Muslims praying the morning Eid prayer at The Park (the old Merchandise Mart) in Charlotte.

Eid-al-Adha starts off with a morning prayer. In Charlotte, Muslims rent out The Park near the Bojangles Coliseum to accommodate the more than 10,000 Muslims who attend. 

After the prayer and sermon, most Muslims go home and feast. But some, change out of their holiday outfits and drive straight down to York County, South Carolina to slaughter an animal – usually a cow or a goat.

Halal International 

Since 1992, the Halal International farm and slaughterhouse has served as the largest distributor of meat to Muslim restaurants and shops in the Charlotte metro-area. The word "halal" just means permissible. 

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Talibuddeen Abdul-Hakeem carries a lamb inside to get it ready for sacrifice.

 And meat is permissible for Muslims to eat when it is slaughtered following strict guidelines -- like using a very sharp knife.

KawtharSuleiman, working at the checkout counter, explains.

"There are a lot of rules when it comes to treating the animal correctly and making sure that at the time of slaughter that they're not frightened and it's done in a quick manner that they don't really feel the pain of it," Suleiman says. "And it's not something we take lightly because animals are part of God's creation as well."

The Rush To Sacrifice

And on Eid-al-adha, there's a huge rush to be the first in line. Suleiman compares it to Black Friday. Sometimes people skip the Eid prayer so that they can get their meat.

Hafid Balahcen is one of about 100 people who drove down from Charlotte to York. He's waiting for his turn.

  "Our number is 232, so we still have like three hours at least, here," Balahcen says. "So we bring our lunch here with us and let the kids watch and play."

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Salwa Afss, 3, feeds grass to goats that are about to be sacrificed as part of the Eid-al-adha holiday.

There's a reason it can take all day. Kawthar's younger sister, SumayaSuleiman, also helps out at her father's farm.

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Plastic ribbons with numbers on them are handed out and distributed to customers. The ribbons are tied on the goat, cow or lamb to make sure customers get the animal they ordered.

"We give everyone a tag and a number and we put the same number on the animal and either we'll slaughter it for them or they can decide to slaughter it themself," she says -- And then the skin is removed and the meat is chilled and processed for about an hour before it's safe to cut -- "After that, the customers usually crowd over here by the saw. And they basically wait for their number to be called and they'll cut it to how they want it."

More than 300 goats and sheep are expected to be slaughtered here for the Eid holiday.

After waiting for four hours, Deepa Almaz walks out with 30 pounds of goat meat. It cost her $212. She says she didn't mind the wait because it was her first time slaughtering an animal in the United States. She's originally from India but she recently moved to Mooresville, North Carolina from Arkansas.

"We're very impressed to see that we have such a facility because back in Arkansas we did not," Almaz says. 

After the animal is slaughtered at least one-third of the meat is distributed to the poor, another third goes to friends and family and the last third, you can keep for yourself.

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