CALIFORNIA – As a Muslim student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Musa Dajani can hardly find suitable food to eat at the dining hall, with very few halal options offered at the campus.
But this has already changed this year, thanks to an adjustment made to the campus dining menu.
“We’re paying $1,000 to eat on campus. It’s not fair that we can’t access much of that food,” Dajani told Santa Cruz Sentinel on Monday.
Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” The term is commonly used for meat, but it’s also applied to other food products, cosmetics, personal care products and pharmaceuticals which mustn’t be derived from non-halal sources like pork.
Halal also applies to any other consumed and edible materials which mustn’t be harmful to human health. For example, Islam considers wines, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, E-cigs, hookah and other unhealthy things to be non-halal.
For something to be considered halal, the animal from which it came from must be well-treated, raised in a humane and healthy way, and slaughtered according to Shari’ah for hygiene reasons.
“The animal shouldn’t see other animals being slaughtered,” Dajani explains what is meant by “halal slaughtering” during the interview.
For meat to be halal certified, the animal must be slaughtered under Shari’ah guidelines.
“The animal must be slaughtered in the direction of Qibla by a sane adult Muslim, and he or she must say the name of God. The animal must be slaughtered by cutting the throat with one continuous motion of a sharp knife. The cut must sever at least three of the following: the trachea, oesophagus and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat. The spinal cord can’t be cut,” Dajani clarified.
The Muslim student thought he would have to become a vegetarian when he started at the university. Moreover, off-campus options are limited too. Safeway’s Open Nature brand and Falafel of Santa Cruz are the only two places Dajani knows that provide halal food.
“The first halal foods at the campus were hamburgers and other beef products. Last year, halal food was spotty, maybe once a week in the dining halls,” Dajani said.
After successful efforts by the university’s Muslim Student Association, the situation has changed a lot.
During the current academic year, the school’s two cafes, Banana Joe’s and Owl’s Nest, started serving halal burgers regularly.
“Dining staff has asked students what types of food they recommend and have allowed students to taste test before making it,” Dajani said happily. Now, there are other halal food served, including chicken tenders, chicken thighs, beef chili, beef steak and chicken pizza.
Dajani, now a 3rd-year student, is one of around 45 members of the Muslim Student Association on campus.
President Shyann Khan and Treasurer Abir Rashid are two students who spearheaded the initiative to make more halal food available. They met with dining hall employees and spoke to staff about the limited options, and also met with a vice chancellor.
Furthermore, the university has also introduced other changes to the menu to accommodate Muslim students.
“Now, there is an icon for halal food on the menu, similar to a sign for vegan and gluten-free options. Dining is also taking wine out of certain dishes as alcoholic beverages including wine aren’t halal because they are harmful to human health according to Islamic Shari’ah.” Rashid said.
“They’re currently working with the meat vendor to make it all halal,” the treasurer continued.
“A fully halal menu won’t make it harder for other students.” Khan said halal food tastes the same, but it’s prepared differently and anyone can eat it.
Dajani is happy that is university is one of the first US schools to serve halal food and he hopes the dining halls will expand their options and provide healthier food for the students.
According to the Salaam Global Islamic Economic Gateway, Columbia, Boston University, the University of Houston, Texas, Stanford and the University of California in Los Angeles, are a few other American universities that also provide halal food.