Discovering What Halal Really Means

BradleyFood, Life in Singapore, Religion24 Comments

I recently came across an article about an ongoing problem in a town called Colne in the UK.  According to the article, the KFC there has switched to serving halal foods as part of a trial.  A KFC representative said this was done because there have been quite a few requests in the UK for halal restaurants.

So… what does that mean?  The article explained that halal meat is meat that has been prayed over and blessed by a Muslim cleric at the point of slaughter.  Also, for a restaurant to have a halal rating, all food products served in the establishment must be halal, and the establishment can also no longer serve pork products, which were on KFC’s menu previous to this trial.

This has angered a lot of non-Muslim local residents who don’t appreciate having food blessed by another religion forced on them.

The first time I ever ate something that was ‘halal’ was at a Hardee’s on a US military installation in Kuwait.  When I saw the phrase ‘halal certified’ on the outside of the restaurant I thought it was amusing, but didn’t give it a lot of thought.  I assumed that it just had something to do with how the food was prepared but I had no idea that it was being blessed by a Muslim cleric.  Thinking about it now, I suppose that was set up to cater to the Muslim foreign workers that were employed on the camp.

I’ve been living in Singapore for almost two years now and I’ve never given much thought to halal food at all.  I always figured that hey… halal, kosher, whatever.  It’s just prepared a special way and not mixed with what those people find ‘unclean’ right?

Now that I understand the true significance behind the meaning of food being halal… I suppose I still don’t really care all that much.  It does bother me a bit that the food is being blessed by another religion, because it reminds me so much of the rite of Communion, which is considered holy and something only Christians should take part in.  On the other hand, if I’m right and they’re wrong then the blessing isn’t going to amount to anything in the long run, is it?  Besides, halal or not it’s still just a piece of chicken.  A fried chicken leg isn’t going to jump off my plate and try to convert me.

I feel bad for the people in Colne, though, because in switching over the restaurant to halal to suit the needs of the Muslim minority, they’ve effectively alienated the Christian (minority?) who may not want to bend their religious principles to eat food blessed by another religion.  Depending on the size of the town, those people may have just lost their only KFC.  I also feel bad for them because people are labeling them as bigots just for standing up for their religious beliefs.  People from one religion not wanting to eat food blessed or ritually killed by another religion is nothing new.  According to AsianCook.co.uk, sikhs will not eat kosher or halal foods either.

What’s most interesting about the situation to me, though, is KFC’s religious insensitivity in the matter.  When confronted about the issue, they replied that the food they’re serving is “still made from the same great ingredients”, effectively dodging the primary issue.

[Note: Keep in mind that I don’t personally know the people in Colne that are protesting this.  All I know is what’s in the article I read. They may certainly be bigots that are using this as a platform for grandstanding.  Regardless, I believe in letting people believe in whatever they want, without putting undue restrictions on their religious rights, insomuch that it doesn’t cause harm to others.]

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24 Comments on "Discovering What Halal Really Means"

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Brad F.

Good point. Capitalism will prevail. However, I fully support these people expressing their opinion if that's what they want to do.

I hadn't heard abou the Faroe Island dolphin killings. I looked it up and that's some pretty twisted stuff. Everyone was going nuts over the dolphin hunting in Japan, splashing it all over television, so why haven't we heard about this? Politics…

rowena
You said it best with “halal or not it's still just a piece of chicken”. I mean, WT*? People are starving in the world – if you don't like it, then don't eat it! If KFC (or whatever food corp for that matter) finds that sales are going down, they'll right that problem asap if they want to stay in business. For all I care, blessing food is just a matter of acknowledging a person's religious belief. If a diner isn't there to see the whole blessing process, WHY CARE? On another note, have you received any forwarded notices of… Read more »
Jen

Oh sorry, I missed out an important point…. The company staff that is in charge of documentations must be a Muslim. I believe this staff also serves as an eye for the bureau to ensure compliances during daily manufacturing processes (since the bureau officers can't be in the factory every day).

Jen
I don't know about the Halal certification process and procedures in Middle East. I reckon, since the company's products are also marketed in Middle East, it shouldn't be wrong. Being non-Muslim, I don't question if the official Islamic bureau in Singapore, Malaysia and USA that their requirements for manufacturers to produce Halal products is right or wrong. The Islamic bureau officers visit such factory on regular basis to check that there are no non-compliances throughout the processes and documentations as required. On top of that, every single proudct has to apply through the bureau for Halal certification with the process… Read more »
Jen
The world will be more peaceful if everyone sees no color, religion or culture, if everyone thinks, feels and reacts the same way. It is natural for one to feel discomfort when exposed to unfamiliarity and/or unknown. One may not and need not understand everything. Just learn to respect and adapt… About Halal certified foods – although I'm not a Muslim but I had been working in food industry for over 20 years, including production of Halal certified products in Singapore, Malaysia and USA. There is no prayer or whatsoever rituals performed. Sha's explanation tells all (the way the chicken… Read more »
Brad F.
I think the US made a big mistake in never declaring English as the official language, back before everyone became too worried about 'sensitivity'. Now, if the most widely spoken language in the country, and the language that's always been the primary language of the country is made the national language, every immigrant in the country would be up in arms, and liberals would cry that it was unfair. Honestly, immigrant children should be forced to learn English, whether they want to or not. If people want to live in the US, they should assimilate into the culture, not expect… Read more »
RONW808
For the record, the US is the most ridiculous nation as far as discouraging assimilation of immigrants who hopped off the boat. When an immigrant's kids enroll in public schools they're assigned to a second-language program, as in, English gets relegated to being the second language. The teacher gives class room instructions and assignments in the foreigner's language, becuz we wouldn't want them youngins to end up uneducated and commit crimes and end up being a bigger expense in the future having to incarcerate them in the prison system. At least that's the entitlement policy for the child's early years.… Read more »
YUN ZHEN!
I did already acknowledge that you did say that this is an overgeneralisation. However, this is pretty extreme. And in the areas of religion and race, you might want to be more careful about what you say. I however can't stop you from saying what you want to say. After all, this is your blog. You have every right to say what you want. I'm just trying to point out areas you're missing out on. I'm just trying to say you should be sensitive about the opposite party's feelings and situation too. In this case your direct opposite party was… Read more »
Brad F.

I just did a test comment and had another person do a test comment. It may have been when I was switching the blog over, or it might have been a temporary bug in Disqus. They seem to be having a shaky week. Should all be working now though.

Brad F.

Hey, thanks for the information about your experience traveling with your pets. I'll be sure to add blankets to the carriers so they have something to hide in. One of my cats is a big sissy already.

sha
Hi brad. This will be very off topic. I can't seem to be able to comment at the cat's donation appeal post. So Im posting it here! Hope you don't mind and may want to look into it. I had a wonderful experience with AirFrance! I stayed in beijing for 7 months and just had to bring my rabbits and guinea pigs along with me. Small animals are allowed onto the cabin. I brought my rabbits along with me but unfortunetly had to keep my cavies on the cargo area as by nature they are very noisy! I did a… Read more »
Brad F.
I think you need to learn how to read. At the end of that comment I said it's generalized, which means it doesn't apply to all. Here's an idea, if you don't like what you're reading, then don't read it. Stop being so damn sensitive. You don't see me crying every time someone says that Christians launched the Crusades or did something horrible in the past. I just accept it because it's true. There are a vast many Muslims that solve their problems through terrorism, and try to settle perceived grievances against the West through terrorism, or feel that they're… Read more »
Brad F.
Why should I be more sensitive? I don't have a fit when someone says that Catholic Christians were hypocritical and launched wars in the name of religion, plundering, slaughtering, and probably raping along the way. Why? Because it was true. There are Muslim attacks against Christians almost every single day. There is religious violence almost every single day. Most of it is one way, and when's the last time you heard about a Christian suicide bomber in the Middle East? There was no bombing in Colne. I said at the end of that comment that it's an over generalized statement.… Read more »
Brad F.

Thanks for reading!

That's an interesting point. I read that info about Sikhs on more than
one site. It could be that they bend their religious convictions a bit
to be able to continue living there. Or perhaps they have special
stores for their food?

sha
HI brad. I agree with Yun Zhen on this. You should be careful with what you say. Now im not threatening you here. I am just informing you to be more sensative. So are you saying that in the case of KFC in Colne they bomb the town just to make KFC halal there? How come it wasn't reported? Im sorry to say but you are quite ignorant. You are saying that everytime they want something to go their way and they are refused, they will use violence. Then what about the case in Switzerland? The swiss government ban Minarets… Read more »
Jacky
I've been reading your blog for a little while, just never commented. I'm a Malaysian living in the United States, fwiw. If what you said is correct that Sikhs won't eat halal and kosher food… that effectively prohibits Sikhs in Malaysia from eating out in many restaurants or even buying meat from supermarkets! Since many/all supermarkets and mainstream restaurants [chains] will just be halal in Malaysia to serve all Malaysians, maybe this means Sikhs can't eat there? Or maybe Malaysian Sikhs are not picky and just avoid beef, and eat everything else? Something I never thought about before because I… Read more »
YUN ZHEN!
I won't comment on you views on this issue this time. But I think you should be careful with what you say. Just because a lot of the terrorists now are Muslims, does not mean Muslims who want to practise their religion as it is have the same mindset and intention as terrorists. I don't think Muslims who want to eat halal food are the same as Muslims who want to spread Islam to the whole world and do it through terrorism. This is a pretty sensitive issue. So please do be careful with how you label Muslims. Would you… Read more »
AZNPride
Well, all the stuff you mentioned, I've heard them all (in worse terms!) from my European ex-gf, so I'm not surprised by them. Basically, the situation is such that in Europe, the governments want immigrants since they do jobs that no locals want to take up, they increase the market size and its also a chance for them to show off how liberal and tolerant their administration is. The business community wants immigrants since they're a source of cheap labor, and when they don't get enough of it, they threaten the government with outsourcing. On the other hand, the middle… Read more »
Brad F.
I think a big problem with the Muslim immigration is that most people don't want it and the people that don't want it definitely don't want to change their eating habits, or their way of life, to accommodate foreigners they didn't ask for. As a Singaporean (I think?), you should know better than most how it feels to have an influx of unwanted foreigners in your country. It won't take much imagination to apply that same resentment to this situation. Now assume Singapore had thousands of years of culture, history, and tradition, and imagine those same foreigners came in demanding… Read more »
Brad F.
Thanks for further clarifying what halal means. I appreciate your vote of confidence in regards to my being adventurous. I do my share of whining and complaining too, but mostly it's about the weather. ^_^ I think a lot of Americans would fully agree with what you just said, if your role were reversed. The problem with immigrant groups in the US demanding change, rather than adapting to the current culture, is a hot issue there. I totally agree that immigrants should adapt, or at the least not pressure the public into making sweeping changes to accommodate their wishes. I'm… Read more »
Brad F.

Thanks for your input. You make a lot of good points.

AZNPride
Personally, I don't care so long as the quality of the food is not affected. On the pro-halal side, I always feel that when there's proper certification, the food SEEMS cleaner and more palatable than anything that's not certified (I know I know, its subjective!). On the flip side, I miss some dishes in fastfood joints here where chicken has substituted pork since their kitchens are halal, and I do think the taste of the food has definitely changed, pork simply doesn't taste like chicken. Its basically a business decision, if the establishment wants more business from customers who are… Read more »
Sha
Hi brad. Im a muslim. The notion of halal is not only what you posted. The animal being slaughtered is a halal way killed in the least painful way than normal methods used for slaughtering. Well to Indiana's comment, I agree with you. However, besides Brad and his wife who try their very best to fit into the community, actively trying new food, I have seen many expats in singapore who simply refuse to learn about singapore's culture and instead complain and whine non-stop on how superior their western culture is and refuse to adapt. Im not saying adopt but… Read more »
Indiana
I totally see where they are coming from. I object that McDonalds advertises their Sausage McMuffin (in Singapore) using the same picture they use in the US but when you order it, it comes as Chicken Sausage. I also object that a menu must be changed and that bacon cannot be included just to appease what is a minority market. The catch is people will label me insensitive for saying that its wrong that I cannot order my breakfast with ham and that I am a bigot if I stand up for my tastebuds and religious beliefs, but no-one labels… Read more »
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