DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has approved a long-awaited $700,000 settlement between a Dearborn McDonalds and people who say they ate chicken sandwiches, that should have been prepared as HALAL: the Muslim equivalent of Kosher.
Ahmed Ahmed, the Dearborn Heights man who represents plaintiffs in the class-action suit, claims he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at the restaurant but found it wasn’t prepared according to Islamic law.
Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.
The McDonald’s restaurant chain and one of its franchise owners agreed in January to the tentative settlement that would be shared by Ahmed, as well as a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.
The two sides met Wednesday for final approval before Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald, who has overseen the case and refereed objections by outside groups since a preliminary deal was announced in January. The settlement was originally set to be finalized March 1, but Macdonald extended the public comment period after pressure from Dearborn lawyer Majed Moughni, who criticized the class-action settlement on Facebook and was temporarily barred from communicating publicly about the case.
Ahmed’s portion of the settlement is considered an “incentive award” and represents his work on the case, his attorneys say.
“As a firm, we’ve borne the burden of litigating this case for over 19 months, and have paid a steep price in time and money to do so,” Kassem Dakhlallah, an attorney whose firm represents Ahmed and the class, told The Associated Press in an email. “We are happy that we are able to finalize this case and get the settlement funds paid to the Huda Clinic to be used for medical care for the community, and to the Arab American National Museum to be used to allow our young ones to continue their educations after high school.”
The lawsuit technically covered anyone who bought the halal-advertised products between September 2005 and January from the restaurant and another McDonald’s in the city with a different owner. The other location wasn’t a defendant or a focus of the investigation.
Dakhlallah has said he was approached by Ahmed, and they conducted an investigation. A letter sent to McDonald’s and the restaurant franchisee, Finley’s Management, by Dakhlallah’s firm said Ahmed had “confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory” that the restaurant had sold non-halal food “on many occasions.”
In the settlement notice, Finley’s Management said it “has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labeled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas.” The company added it trains its employees on preparing halal food and “requires strict adherence to the process.”
Dakhlallah said giving money to the charities is the best outcome, since most people wouldn’t have kept their receipts, making “identifying class members who have valid claims nearly impossible.”
Moughni argues that Dakhlallah and his colleagues could have made greater attempts to find those who were harmed and, failing that, identified more relevant organizations, such as Dearborn’s public schools. He said the clinic is several miles away from the restaurant and the museum has nothing to do with halal food.
Macdonald disagreed, but Moughni said it’s wrong, unfair, and he’s considering an appeal.
“They’re picking two organizations that really don’t benefit the community,” he told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “One organization is near Hamtramck, which really had nothing to do with Dearborn — and the majority of people who eat at this McDonald’s in Dearborn live in Dearborn. So why are we giving this money to a charity outside of Dearborn?”
Moughni said he will not oppose the settlement, but will call for a boycott of the Dearborn Heights restaurant.
There are only two McDonald’s in the United States that sell halal products and both are in Dearborn, which has one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim communities. Overall, the Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims of many ethnicities.
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