Growing up, I always referred to UTD as a “brown school.” My mom especially felt more secure about sending me to UTD, knowing that a Muslim community was present and active. UTD takes pride in its diversity, but “diverse” does not always mean “inclusive.” The lack of halal eating options on campus may not raise much concern, but it is a need that must be fulfilled for the Muslim student population.
UTD has a plethora of clubs and organizations catered specifically to majors, genders, races, religions and interests. Within this excess of organizations, there are many catered specifically to Muslim students. The Muslim Scholar Association, Islamic Relief and Alpha Lambda Mu, UTD’s Muslim-based fraternity, all help Muslim students find a solid community through the practice and teachings of Islam. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at UTD and realized that there was only one halal establishment on campus. Halal meat includes all meat but pork. “Zabiha” is a designation for halal meat that is prepared according to Islamic law. According to the Qur’an, Muslims are required to eat meat that is prepared through a halal method, which includes prayers and humane treatment of animals.
At a diverse school such as UTD, a diverse pool of preferences is to be expected among the student body. Dining Hall West accommodates vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free preferences, but halal is not among the options. The only halal place at UTD is Za’tar, the Mediterranean food outlet located in the Student Union. Based on my conversations with friends, Za’tar is not a particular favorite among students. The clear lack of halal places on campus has students turning to local, off-campus restaurants. There are several halal eateries near campus, such as the Chopped Halal Grill at Northside and Yummy Burger, located off East Main Street.
Among Muslim students, there is a clear desire for halal eating options. MSA’s first general body meeting this school year devoted an entire segment of the presentation to cover halal eating options near campus. MSA’s membership alone has increased to over 200, a number that will continue to grow.
What would it take for the Dining Hall to introduce halal meat to their vast selection of food? For a community that has such a large presence at UTD, halal options for Muslims to utilize are almost completely unavailable. Muslim students should not have to go to the same eatery every day. As the campus grows in size, the number of eating options for a small, but loud community remains stagnant.
UTD is safe and tolerant of other cultures and beliefs. However, can we say it is truly inclusive when in some regards it isn’t? Muslims have a history of facing discrimination and underrepresentation, so a college campus such as UTD’s should take certain measures to make a significant part of their student body feel welcome.