“Halal” is a term that refers to a good and acceptable way of life for a person who is Muslim. It means the opposite of the word “haram,” another Arabic term that refers to that which is forbidden. There are very specific guidelines that direct how a Muslim should conduct many activities, including what to eat. While it may initially seem simple to pick and choose what foods to consume, a truly halal diet can be much more complicated, which can create unique challenges when the normal flow of life is disrupted.
What Is a Halal Diet?
The rules of a halal diet extend far beyond simply what types of food can be eaten. Details such as how animals are slaughtered and other early steps in food processing are also taken into account. The underlying idea behind halal foods is that they should be good for the body and cause no harm to it. These may sometimes be referred to as “pure” or “clean” foods. While many types of meat are allowed in a halal diet, pig products are a notable exclusion. Alcohol and similar intoxicating substances are also restricted. Some organ meats and other animal products such as gelatin must additionally be avoided.
Issues With Food Supplies
Food supplies can be an understandable area of concern for practicing Muslims. Not only do practitioners have to pick and choose which restaurants they feel are acceptable to visit, but they also must use caution when buying groceries. When in doubt, many stick to vegetarian options to ensure that the food they consume is halal.
One of the most widespread challenges to impact Muslim communities for some time, COVID-19 has made sticking to a halal diet difficult, especially during the vital time of Ramadan, in which dietary restrictions for Muslims are even more stringent. During Ramadan, food is often shared and used as a central reason for communities to gather, but this year people were forced to isolate and sharing food was risky. This unexpected obstacle led to communities having to make big decisions about how to distribute acceptable food and individual families being forced to face concerns about accessing enough food for their needs. Even apart from Ramadan, halal foods as a whole have become more difficult to find and increasingly expensive during the global pandemic.
Other Challenges and Debates
While a diet is generally a very personal part of life, it can be surprising how much debate comes up around halal diets as well as other religious-specific ways of eating. For instance, a current debate in India is whether all restaurants should adhere to halal guidelines or not. Many restaurants in the country, including large chains such as McDonald’s, currently serve only halal food. While this can make life easier for Muslim restaurant patrons, others view it as exclusionary and limiting. Issues such as this often come up when major industries are forced to choose which guidelines to adhere to. Many people believe the best solution to these problems would be to make all options available at each location, but this would create difficult logistics and might be much more expensive for restaurants to accomplish.
Muslims and a Halal Diet
A halal diet is an important part of Muslim culture. While current issues have created unique challenges around food accessibility, it remains a priority for people to find food that fits their religious needs and distribute it through their community. Other questions, such as what restaurants should serve may take longer to resolve. Inclusivity and acceptance of diversity can be a challenge, and many industries are still trying to find a perfect balance to avoid offense and please as many people as possible.