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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Profile – SE staffer preaches vegan lifestyle

SE instructional associate Niloofar Asgharian believes that veganism and Islam go hand in hand. She advocates for animal rights and considers animals worthy of consideration, just like humans.
Photo by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
SE instructional associate Niloofar Asgharian believes that veganism and Islam go hand in hand. She advocates for animal rights and considers animals worthy of consideration, just like humans. Photo by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

By Linah Mohammad/se news editor

A plate of seasoned rice, lentils and soy crumbles, topped with caramelized onions and raisins. 

Addas polo, an aromatic, delicious and hearty Iranian delicacy, is Niloofar Asgharian’s usual dish.

When she is not between the chemical elements and compounds of SE chemistry labs, she is advocating veganism.

SE instructional associate Niloofar Asgharian believes that veganism and Islam go hand in hand. She advocates for animal rights and considers animals worthy of consideration, just like humans. Photo by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
SE instructional associate Niloofar Asgharian believes that veganism and Islam go hand in hand. She advocates for animal rights and considers animals worthy of consideration, just like humans.
Photo by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

A compound herself, Asgharian is a Muslim vegan, a combination one wouldn’t come across very often.

“I am a secular Muslim from Iran,” she said. “That I am a Ph.D. chemist gives me the angle of a scientist to advocate for veganism on all levels.”

Asgharian is calm, caring and loving, according to both her colleague and her friend.

“Nili is very compassionate and approachable,” said Bahareh Momeni, one of Asgharian’s friends whom she influenced to transition into veganism.

Momeni moved recently to the U.S. from Iran. With the help of Asgharian, she has been vegan for more than a year and is currently translating Eat Like You Care, a book which advocates veganism, from English to her native Farsi.

Graham Hayes, Asgharian’s colleague, has also been a vegan for about four years.

“Nili is very supportive and encouraging,” he said. “She is very positive and helpful to me, and I try to do the same for her. We come from different cultures. I am an American and Christian. She is from Iran and Muslim. This has not prevented us from respecting each other.”

Asgharian, who describes herself as a “citizen of the planet,” uses Islam to her advantage when advocating veganism.

“Basically in Islam, all living things, humans and animals are worthy of consideration,” she said. “Animals have been viewed as special parts of God’s creations. In a sense, man is responsible for whomever is at his disposal, be it humans or animals.”

According to her, animal lives are respected in Islam’s holy book, the Quran. Because humans have dominion over the animals, they have a sense of responsibility toward them.

“Islam strongly asks Muslims to treat animals with dignity and respect,” she said. “Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, was merciful and kind to animals.”

In the Quran, not only humans praise God, but all animals praise God. The Prophet often criticized his companions who mistreated animals and praised those who treated them with care.

An example where human sins were forgiven because they showed compassion to an animal, according to the Seerah, the Prophet Mohammad’s biography, is when a thirsty man came across a well and drank from it. Meanwhile, he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of his thirst. The man went to the well, filled his shoe with water, held it in the dog’s mouth and let him drink from it. The Prophet then told his companions that all his sins were forgiven because he was compassionate to the dog.

Most Muslims are allowed to consume halal meat, a religious ritual of preparing the meat for Muslims.

Asgharian gets one common comment from fellow Muslims: “The Prophet sanctioned the consumption of halal meat, so we can eat it.”

What a lot of Muslims don’t know, she said, is that for them to consume the meat, it has to be both halal and Tayeb, which means wholesome, ensuring the animals were safe before their slaughter.

“My response is that a lot of people forget about the Tayeb part,” she said, “which means taking a lot of care and being compassionate and pure to the animal that you’re going to slaughter. There are actually two conditions, Tayeb and halal. The meat nowadays is not considered Tayeb.”

Muslims’ disagreement and even opposition to veganism and Asgharian’s views is a common response.

“It is a hurdle that I am still trying to overcome,” she said. “But my rebuttal is that if the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, were alive today, there is no question in my mind that he would be vegan — no question in my mind!”

In addition to that, Asgharian says in the area where Islam was founded, the Arabian Peninsula, agriculture was uncommon. Therefore, the consumption of meat was necessary for survival.

With a plethora of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes, she does not see the need to depend on meat anymore.

“In fact, I would say meat is haram [not halal] because I am very aware of what has got into that dead flesh that is sitting on a plate,” she said.

Asgharian’s transition to veganism was a unique one. She witnessed the slaughter of a sheep, a scene she considered gory.

“I once witnessed a sheep slaughtered for an occasion, which left a scar in my head, and I refused to eat the meat,” she said. “Then I moved here. Our neighbors had a dog that they chained up. In the beginning, the dog was crying day and night. I didn’t know why. It did not take me long to figure out that this dog is suffering, and I have to do something about it. The neighbors allowed me to take care of her — a big, powerful pit bull.”

Asgharian had grown to love this dog. After a while, her neighbors released the dog to her.

“This dog changed my life,” she said. “From then on, I found out about animal cruelty here, chaining, neglect and aggressive cruelty. I became aware of animal welfare issues.”

From there, Asgharian delved into the world of the domesticated farm animals and their life conditions. She discovered the horrendous conditions they went through after the creation of factory farms and the large consumption of meat by humans, especially after the Industrial Revolution.

Asgharian’s motives and defenses are not purely religious. She also advocates veganism on all levels: ethics, health and the planet’s sustainability.

“I stress that animals are not commodities to be exploited,” she said. “However, after World War II, animals were contained in masses in order to feed the growing population without any regards to the horrifying conditions of the animals.”

She added that many well-known American doctors are adopting the vegan lifestyle and encouraging it.

“They are saying that we can reverse Type II diabetes on a whole food plant-based diet,” she said. “We can also avoid inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s.”

Humans find new ways to exploit animals whether it’s for food, entertainment or animal testing.

“I protest the rodeo and the circus regularly,” she said.

Momeni and her husband use veganism to their advantage.

“We do not want violence for any species, not just humans,” she said. “Veganism is a great way to advocate peace and justice.”

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