July 29, 2012

AIN'T THAT AMERICA:

Islamic butcher shop an outpost of cultural fusion in East L.A. : Al Salam Polleria opened on Whittier Boulevard with plans to provide fresh poultry killed according to Islamic law. Instead it has been embraced by its Latino neighbors. (Weston Phippen, 7/22/12, Los Angeles Times)

Al Salam Polleria's success, as well as its distinction, can be found in its East L.A. location and in its name -- al salaam is Arabic for peace, polleria is Spanish for poultry shop.

It was never their intention to end up in East L.A. But as they would find, it was quite fortunate.

Elrabat-Gabr's father, Safwat Elrabat, emigrated from Egypt, figuring he could fill a niche in Los Angeles by selling fresh poultry killed according to Islamic law, called halal.

How he arrived on this stretch of Whittier Boulevard, a heavily Latino neighborhood, came down to zoning laws that allow the storage and slaughter of live animals. Still, when Elrabat and his brother-in-law opened the shop in 1984, they expected a line of fellow Muslims trailing out the door.

"Yeah, it didn't happen that way," Elrabat-Gabr said.

Instead the local community embraced the new polleria. It still does. Here, there is no culture clash.

It also didn't hurt that Elrabat placed a super-sized white chicken on the roof, like the Michelin Man, a kind of lighthouse beacon welcoming the neighborhood. In fact, local residents began shopping here with such regularity that Elrabat and most of the family quickly learned enough Spanish to know exactly what customers wanted.

Elrabat-Gabr sees strong similarities between the Egyptian and Latin cultures. Both place great importance on family and on respect, she said, and because the Moors controlled parts of Spain for hundreds of years, the languages share similar words.

Posted by at July 29, 2012 8:14 AM
  

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