With the rapid growth and constant influx of immigrants, particularly in Dallas, there has been a rise in the incorporation of “halal” food in restaurants. Beyond being a business tactic, the rise in opening these restaurants is contributing to acceptance of Muslims in a society where Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims are rampant.
A report by Pew Research Center estimated 3.3 million Muslims in the U.S. in 2015. Thus, halal restaurants are popping up all over the country. What began as a way for Muslims who have little access to delicious, but rarely halal dishes has now become a nationwide phenomenon.
According to Zabihah.com, there are around 287 halal restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and 1,114 in Texas overall. In bustling cities such as Plano and Richardson, well-known restaurants such as KFC have included halal options on their menus. With the growing halal food fad, food-lovers are including halal restaurants in their tweets and Facebook posts.
In Islamic Law, meat must be halal, which means permissible, and zabiha, which is the term used to define the Islamic method of meat slaughter. The umbrella term “halal” is used by restaurants and companies, but the word implies the meat is zabiha.
At the time of slaughter, the animal needs to be alive and the person must utter the name of Allah before killing the animal. The animal must be treated respectfully and it is forbidden to be subject to abuse. The process is more than just a way for Muslims to eat clean, healthy meat, it entails that the animal’s pain and feelings were taken into consideration.
Although the practice of religious slaughter applies to a very small population of people (again, Muslim population in U.S. is 3.3 million compared to 323.1 million), organizations continue to oppose a century old religious tradition. PETA and Farm Animal Welfare Council continually claim halal meat controversial because of how the animal is slaughtered when it’s alive and draining the blood after it is killed, thus causing public hysteria and associating Islamic traditions with barbarity.
Globally, this is an issue because halal restaurants are also opening in places such as Britain and France. According to The Guardian, British National Party website regarded halal meat being sold in stores and restaurants as “obvious erosion of our traditions and customs.” It’s difficult not to think about how this might just another way to point fingers at Muslims and find another reason to fear them for. It feels like whenever halal is brought up, there is an Islamophobic attitude associated with it.
For example, as the Houston Press reported, shortly after Campbell Company of Canada introduced halal soups, a Facebook group called “Boycott Campbell Soup” was created. The group’s members on the Facebook page included comments such as, “This is just another way that terrorism and its sponsors are insinuating themselves into our culture. … I will not pay money for soup or any other product that supports, aids, or abets their tactics.” It feels like people are angry that cultural change is happening (which oftentimes is quite true). Yet again, an Islamic tradition is downgraded with ignorant assumptions and offensive theories.
While there are definitely opposing forces against halal, businesses continue to open establishments and stores supply halal chicken and lamb meat on their shelves. This is exactly what’s creating inclusivity and fighting Islamophobia.
While it may seem so infinitesimal that these restaurants are popping up all over the U.S. and Dallas-Fort Worth and businesses are appealing to the hype of halal foods, these are important ways of accepting Muslim culture into society. Each time a restaurant opens that serves halal food, people become familiar with the term “halal” and its traditions. When restaurants such as “Halal Guys” became popular in social media and people (including non-Muslims) post pictures of their favorite halal dishes, we’re taking one step closer towards increased cultural acceptance.
It’s the integration of the concept of halal in our society that is making opening these halal restaurants so important. The massive amount of halal restaurants in Texas means Muslims aren’t always being subject to hate. In a society where ignorance is rampant and Muslims are frequently attributed with terrorism and barbarism, having these small moments of inclusivity means there’s still hope for cultural acceptance of Muslims in society.