Belligerent birds and rustling rabbits peer out from wire cages lining the wall. Fattened fowl peck and squawk, waddling around each other in their three-foot by three-foot cages.

The flock shrieks when a 17-pound turkey is plucked from their cage and hung upside-down from the scale, wings spread wide. The bird cocks its head from side to side as the Russian couple sizes it up. The husband nods his approval to the Latino butcher, who hands the turkey to a Moroccan waiting in the back room of the Sunset Park, Brooklyn, halal butcher.

“Bismillah, allahu akbar,” Yousef el Gnaoui whispers. In the name of God, God is great.

With a quick stroke of his right hand, the Moroccan slits the turkey’s throat. The turkey is now considered “halal,” meaning an observant Muslim may eat it.

Across town on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, no fewer than 16 halal restaurants and grocery stores have sprung up to feed the neighborhood’s burgeoning Muslim population.

American-style fried chicken, Chinese, West African, Middle Eastern and American halal restaurants compete to serve the increasingly diverse – and increasingly Muslim – population of the historically African-American Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The demand for halal food has even pushed the state legislature to step in as a referee, mandating a halal food certification process that mirrors the state’s kosher regulations.


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