06 April 2014

Is not offering a non-pork alternative in schools that big of a deal?

There has been a bit of a stir in France over the past couple of days regarding the news that schools in areas where the National Front party has political leadership will no longer offer children a halal meat alternative to pork. 

In all honesty I was more surprised that some parents are actually complaining about this decision than anything else. When I was at school the last thing my parents would have expected was for the school to offer me a halal meat alternative - eating a vegetarian lunch was simply never an issue for me. As far as I can remember, I, like most of the non-Muslim children, had a packed lunch everyday, and on days I was allowed to eat a hot meal at school I was more than happy with chip-Fridays. 

Foreigners in any country should have a natural acceptance that they are foreign and should not expect, or demand, that the country that they are living in caters to their lifestyle. When Muslims choose to live in any country but their own they must learn to adapt their own lives and never expect others to adapt to theirs. 

I feel as though some Muslims are forgetting that they are foreigners in the Western countries they are living in, so much so that they forget that the native people have their own cultures and ways that they wish to preserve. This does not mean they are racist, it just means they don't want to see their culture slipping away, diluted or replaced by something foreign.

I am very grateful when I see halal shops or mosques in the UK, and I'm happy that I am allowed to work with a headscarf on but by no means do I except these things to available without question or as part of some 'right' that I have in this country. We must remember that we are, and always will be, foreign and if you do not like the laws of a land, nobody is forcing you to live there. 


Albie said...

Asalaamu alaykum --
Firstly, to the idea that immigrants and their children are "foreign" -- most countries have laws and some sort of idea that immigrants, once citizens of a country, are no longer "foreigners." They have as much right as other citizens in a country to have their needs, whether they be dietary or other, recognized and reasonably accommodated. They should not be viewed as something negative (the word "foreigner" has certain connotations). Once a country allows immigrants to become a part of that country's fabric, they can no longer treat them as "foreign." They cannot deny that bringing in immigrants, whether for the workforce or because they are displaced, etc., changes the a country's culture and society in unforeseen and unpredictable ways. In light of Islam, and that Muslim children should attend a government-funded school, the school should and most of the time does accommodate these differences. To think of immigrants as "foreign" and somehow undeserving of accommodation shows how ingrained it must be in European culture to reject outsiders, even by the "outsider" themselves. The truth is, the world is a homogeny. There is no culture in the world that does not consist of multiple cultures, religions, and ethnic groups that have various needs. The fact that one group of people was in a place before another group does not mean that the rights of the minority are less important. To accommodate minorities is only reasonable, in my view. People should not be expected to assimilate to the majority, especially if the reason for not assimilating is religious.

Nai @ TPJ said...

Salam. It's Minority Report, dear.. ^_^
One thing I find Islam stands out from other religions is the tolerance it offers others, which is lacking in its 'competitors'.

Jenna said...

Yeah, preach! By the way, it's good to see you posting again :)

StylishMuslimah said...

Albie: Your views are thoughtful but I have to disagree. I'm not using the term 'foreign' as a negative thing, I'm using it for it's explicit meaning. If non-Muslims went to many Muslim countries, there would be no provision of non-halal meat or alcohol and they would be expected to conform to Islam. I'm not saying this is right or wrong but it's the reality.
The Prophet (saw) did not expect the non Muslims in Makkah to provide halal meat for him, why should we?

Nai: Islam is, Muslims on the other hand..

Jenna: Thanks! :D

Salam x

Anonymous said...

Not all muslims in "Western" countries are foreign. I spend so much time trying to combat this idea among non-muslims (only in response to them) in the US that it is disappointing to see it perpetuated by another muslim. It is not because I have anything against immigrants, muslims or not, and most of our ancestors were once immigrants from somewhere. It is because it seems to be DEEPLY ingrained that people assume that since I am muslim I must not be "from here." I MUST be "foreign" and this must explain it. I must be somehow different from them. Just the other day in the grocery store the checker asked me politely, what my scarf signified, as often happens, and I said I was muslim. She apologized for any offense and I assured here there was none. Then she asked where I was from, and I said I was from here (I was born and raised less than 20 miles away). She said oh, she had thought I must be muslim because I was from another country. Many people will go much deeper with their comments, asking well... where are my parents from? Here? But... where are THEIR parents from? And finally, if they are bold enough to explain what they are getting at, how can I be muslim without it somehow being foisted upon me by external circumstances? As if they can't accept not just my choice, but the fact that I'm able to choose.

RTM Online said...

It's tougher being a muslim in a foreign world. But living in a 90 percent muslim world is also a challenge in itself. I guess we just have to adapt with our suroundings and don't expect things to be served to us, like they all can read our minds.

StylishMuslimah said...

qatheworld: Of course I am not suggesting that all Muslims in Western countries are foreign, but most of them are. Your comments are very valid though.

RTM: Agreed.

Salam x

Beatriz said...

A very thoughtful post, really enjoyed it. When I have Muslim guests in my home I try to accommodate their needs, just as I would a vegetarian or anybody else that has a dietary restriction. Having said that I do not expect nor do I want for government run groups to take sides on this issue, just like I don't want religion in schools. However, if these schools had already given halal alternatives then they should continue but only because they have set the precedent. If anything I see it as a legal issue, not a cultural issue.

In time this will not be an issue but for now we need to accept that cultural norms do not change overnight. Also that in countries whose main demographic is not Muslim, it will take much longer to change.

Anonymous said...

Salaam -

I've never responded to blog posts, but feel as if I must today. I'm a third generation American from Italian and Irish decent - a typical American who when she was 19, converted from Catholicism to Islam.

I am not a foreigner. I am American. I am Muslim. Last two things are not connected in any way shape or form.

I expect this type of ignorant stereotype that all Muslims are Arab or South Asian from non-Muslims. Hello?! This is what I battle every single day. Oh you're wearing a scarf - where are you from? Uh, here. I'm American. No, but like, you're parents, where are they from? Uh, here. Oh, but you're Muslim. YES I am. That's like asking a black person if they're from Africa. Hello?!?

I'm really shocked to be honest. We're not living in a world where all Muslims are foreigners anymore. Times are a changin'.

Anonymous said...

I see you censor comments. Don't even bother publishing my previous comment - It's more for you. And I'm not trying to be mean, just don't forget about all the brothers and sisters out there who are fighting for Islam on a daily basis - trying to make people understand that it is not about country but about faith.

I would imagine a lot of people who follow your blog are converts since they are trying to figure out new ways of expressing themselves through their clothing while also conforming to the new rules in Islam. That's why I started following - how do I wear hijab - how can I still be ME but also follow Islam. Where do I buy appropriate clothing in the US since I'm NOT in a Muslim country.

Anyways - I'm not mad nor should you be. :) Salaam

StylishMuslimah said...

Anonymous: Salam. I actually don't 'censor' comments, I moderate out the spam.
I haven't suggested that all Muslims are foreign, but most of them are - when I write about subjects like this I don't feel the need to state things like that, because to be fair they're kind of obvious :D
The point I'm trying to make here is that Muslims in general should not be expected to be catered to in non-Muslim countries, especially in non-necessities such as a meat-based meal for their children at lunch time.

Salam x

Anonymous said...

This is a genuine problem in French primary schoosl. Children get a proper 3 course lunch, no veggie alternative, no bringing sandwiches. The idea is to teach them how to eat properly. So no halal option means no lunch for Muslim children.

Ok to be vegetarian said...

Surprisingly, I agree with your post ... I don't ever comment since I often don't agree with you! ;)

1) Nothing wrong with eating the vegetarian option if available.
2) People also forget that by receiving "halaal" stamped food from institutions doesn't necessarily mean it's "Halaal" ... Unless I know the source + how reliable is the handling of the food, I end up taking vegetarian options most of the time. Food preparations aren't always strictly Halaal when provided by non-Muslim institutions.
3) Both Muslims + non-Muslims consume too much meat generally, and this consumerism has resulted in mass production of meat where animals are bred + kept in a cruel manner, which effectively nullifies the "halaalness" of the stamped end-product. Check out some documentaries on how male chicks are incinerated alive since there is no use for them, whereas the female chicks are reared in the cages, etc for the eggs + meat. The list goes on ...

I've digressed! My point is, so long as there is strictly Halaal food available (vegetarian, provided there is no alcohol used in the cooking process, is HALAAL!), Muslims need to chill a bit about their Islamic "rights".

When our "rights" are squashed, yes, we need to speak up.

If a reasonable option is available (vegetarian!), do we really need to complain?

I speak out when my ability to practice my Deen is hindered or else I simply change course. I'm going to digress again! Few years ago, I was told to attend a conference during Ramadan which was being held at a gambling resort. I declined. I was told I need to behave like the other Muslims who've attended previously + had no issues with their fasting. I did have a issue. The availability of Halaal or vegetarian food was suspect, a gambling resort (?!) and the ability to fulfill my prayers would have been awkward. My husband always accompanies me for all events + we agreed that I should step down, speak up + move on. So, a few unprofessional remarks were made to me. I eventually left that position + moved to another area at work which Alhumdhulillah makes me happy, and I no longer work with those individuals.


StylishMuslimah said...

Anon: I'm fairly sure that a three course meal won't contain meat in every part. But if there are no vegetarian options whatsoever, that is a problem.

Veggie: Haha your first comment made me laugh. I seriously don't mind people disagreeing with me, nothing wrong with a debate now and again :D

I 100% agree with you about people eating too much meat, gone are the days when it was only bought for special occasions. The gambling resort thing is odd! Glad it turned out well for you in the end.

Salam x

Anonymous said...

I'm a french muslim and alhamdullilah i don't work so i can take my child at home for lunch.
If i had to work, my child would be forced to eat at school. in France, bring a lunch from home is not allowed. So you have to teach to your 3 years old to not eat the meat at school. And then they put the plate with meat in front of him and he sees the others childs eat their meat, the adults tell him to eat his meat. What a 3years old child will do? He will eat it. No vegetarian alternative, there is fish only on friday. Please don't talk about what you don't know

StylishMuslimah said...

Noussa: I'm sure they won't be forced to eat the meat.

If the country is so difficult to live in for Muslims, why are you choosing to live there?


Affinity for Modesty said...

Your cmment to Noussa, If the country is too difficult for Muslims, why are you living there?...it is not as easy as you think, Zainab. Did you ever consider that she might be a citizen of that country and not a foreigner? Or she and her family have no other option to move since their livelihood is in France...not everyone is Donald Trump and thus can jet off to any country for a better life.
Yes, any civilized country should accommodate its conglomeration of citizens needs. Most Muslim countries allow selling of pork and other non halal items for its non Muslim citizens. And immigrants have the rights just as 'white' citizens to expect and demand from their government.

Immigrant rights are Human rights.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think they HAVE to eat the lunch there, no bringing a sandwich from home allowed. We're allowed to bring our own lunch from home in The US and UK but they cant


StylishMuslimah said...

Affinity for modesty: She might be yes, but I doubt it unless she changed her name. Actually most countries governed but Islam do not offer any allowances for non-Muslims at all, if anything it's the opposite. All you need to do is look at Saudi, Iran, Pakistan and the constant sectarian fighting in virtually all Muslim countries to realise that the tolerance of Muslims to other cultures and religions is actually very low.

I disagree that immigrants have right to demand the provision of halal food from a non-Muslim government.
If a non-Muslim country is difficult for you to live in, then there are always other options.

Salam x

StylishMuslimah said...

Aliyah: Yes, I realised after writing this that you do, however the principle in my opinion still remains the same. I feel that the country should not be expected to provide halal food, but they should definitely offer non-meat options or allow food to be brought from home.

Salam x

Affinity for Modesty said...

I disagree that immigrants have right to demand the provision of halal food from a non-Muslim government. 

May I know on what grounds is this based on? Are immigrants merely second class citizens then thus deserve no voice from their governments? Or is it a tit for tat scenario since Saudi Arabia and Pakistan doesn't cater to non Muslims? Among the list of Muslim countries that caters to its non Muslim citizens including immigrants, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, UAE, Oman, Egypt, etc.
Then again, France upholds itself as a democratic country unlike the Muslim countries therefore should follow the characteristics of a democracy including human rights. Serving halal food, or kosher food or even vegan and other special dietary is the responsibilities of the school. Or allow children to bring their own lunch from home. Frankly speaking, the so called equality that France and its ilk are lauding are nothing but a sham. Suppressing the rights of the religious was what Stalin, Hitler, Mau Tze Tung etc did in the past. Do you really agree of their doings?
Immigrants who legally came to the country have the same rights of other citizens and that is concurred by Amnesty.

StylishMuslimah said...

Children should be allowed to bring in lunch from home, the fact that they aren't is the problem with France, not the fact that halal food is not provided.

Firstly, looking at it from an Islamic point of view, Muslims have no God-given right to demand halal meat from non-Muslims. Can you imagine the Prophet (s) and his early followers doing that?!

Secondly, meat is not a necessity and it certainly not a requirement to eat everyday, especially for lunch. That is a luxury very few people in the world have.

With regards to your democracy argument, I can pretty much guarantee you that if a vote was taken on whether or not the French wanted their taxes going on providing children with halal meat in schools, the results would be unanimous.


Anonymous said...

i'm a revert and i'm 100% french. And as a french muslima, i think i have the right in my own country to have an alternative lunch for my kid in school (i don't ask halal meat, even a lunch without meat would be right). We are in 2014, France is not the same since Louis 14 and they should realize that there are now french citizens muslims who have the same rights than the others citizens. Afterall we pay our taxes like everybody in this country.
And yes, i know some cases where young children have been forced to eat their meat at school, when you tell the school to not give meat they say it's not possible because kids need to eat meat,etc...
Noussa (that's a pseudo)

StylishMuslimah said...

Noussa: I 100% agree, there should always be a meat-free alternative available. Meat is not the only source of protein.

Salam x

Anonymous said...

This is ignorant! Here in the USA the majority of schools offer a NO-MEAT lunch option because what about all the American kids who are vegetarian, hate meat, or whatever else...and in many Urban school istricts they dont serve pork AT ALL because many kids in American schools here on the East Coast actually dont eat pork at all. Many African Americans dont eat pork due to the influance of NOI and 5%'ers over the generations and many non-African Americans dont eat pork either because they view it as dirty or whatever else and what about the huge Indian, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim populations. Its NOT a big deal...but France likes to make a big deal out of everything...all they aree doing is alientatings a HUGE segement of their young population and it WILL come back to *bite* them on the @ss one day. Offering a no-meat alternative is just a modern decency. Im sure there are many French kids who are vegetarian or dont eat much meat.

p.s. here in the USA...like on the east coast, yeah def. pork isnt very popular. Now this may be diff down south or in small towns or whatever but like my sons school dist which is HUGE never serves pork-at-all and always has 1 meat and 1 non-meat lunch.


Anonymous said...

Also I'm American...yeah like 3rd gen...grandparents came over on the boat. I'm an American Muslim, im not a foreigner and I do expect my country to cater to me because I AM American...thats bullsh*t that someone whose parents emigrated to another country or they themselves emigrated need to feel that they dont deserve any rights in their or their parents adopted country. You pay taxes right, you live there...you have every right as someone whose grandparents moved there in 1890 or 1,000 years ago to demand to have your rights and needs catered too as well! No country is 100% homogeneous and every single country has had plenty of flux with people coming and going...so thats bull. Being a Muslim doesnt make you a foreigner and being born in a country to foreign born parents doesnt make you a foreigner. Your a national and you deserve as much respect as joe blow whose grandparents came over. UGH, that mentality ticks me off.

Me at work...

Patient "so um, where are you from...?"
Me: "here"...
Patient "No like where originally...?"
Me: "here"...
Patient: "ooh like your born here, so where is ur parents from...?"
Me: "Um, here!"
Patient "No like your ethnicity/race...?"
Me: "White"...
Patient "white like what? like uh, wait where are your grandparents from...?"
Me: "well they came over on a boat via Ellis Island back in 1910 which is when a lot of people came here..."
Patient: "from where"
Me: "Oh somewhere in eastern europe"
Patient : "then how come your Muslim?"
Me: There are many indigenous American Muslims, esp here on the East Coast...

usually by that point they get so con fused and frustrated they give up! LOL and yes there are a huge population of indigenous American Muslims here on the east coast we just dont stand out as a buncha foreigners cuz we arent. LOL

StylishMuslimah said...

Umm Ibrahim: Hmm, foreign or not, you're still in a non-Muslim majority country. I stand by my original point.

Salam x

Jules72 said...

Perhaps as a revert, I am more comfortable in demanding my rights and parity with others in society - so I am happy to put halal in my dietary preferences and wearing my hijab into work (although that did take a few days of hesitation). I am a member of western society, so I should be treated the same as others - if vegetarian is a choice, or kosher, why not ask for halal.

Anonymous said...

As yet another native-born muslim I just have to weigh in and reiterate the numerous comments above. I agree that it's pretty ignorant to assume that muslims are "foreign" and also that "foreigners," even those who become citizens, shouldn't have their religious beliefs accommodated.
I've definitely experienced the ignorant assumption that all/most muslims are foreigners who came from Arabic-speaking countries, but I've never actually hear that from a fellow muslim before. (Usually it's a dude covered with tatoos, sporting a mullet and missing a few teeth, riding a Harley). *and in fact, the majority of muslims in the world are NOT from Arab speaking countries. Also, more than 1/3 of the muslims living in the US today were BORN HERE. (which makes them, by definition, not foreign)

As American citizens, our constitution guarantees us that the government will not infringe with our religious freedom. Do I think that entitles us to have the government provide halal meat in school lunches? No. But do I think that entitles us to be able to conveniently offer our children something for lunch other than pork (such as a vegetarian option, a packed lunch, etc.)? Yes.
However, the biggest issue I see in this post is overcoming the mindset that muslims are some third-class group of annoying foreigners who should stop complaining, and, if they don't like the way things are, they should "go back to where they came from." I'm part Native American, so.... there's not really anywhere for me to go back to.

SDK said...

I don't know how things are in Europe, but in the United States, schools and work are legally required to reasonably accommodate your religious needs. That's one of your rights as an American. And if enough students at a school want or don't want something, simple economics takes over and they will serve what students want to eat.

I don't know what is wrong with France, honestly. If they are so secular, why do they serve fish on Fridays (Catholic custom)? They observe Catholic holidays, allow Catholic symbols, accommodate Catholic needs and then claim that all of this is secular, because it's all "culture" and not religion. There is no line between religion and culture.

When they serve meat on Fridays and ban the wearing of crosses I will consider their arguments. Until then, I am not impressed.

BTW, I am Jewish and we also have dietary laws, we also wear scarves (some of us) and we need to observe our sabbath and holidays. Although it might appear to some that Jews and Christians are on the "same side" in France, I do not believe that any country that treats its former colonies so disgracefully and that insults Muslims so unnecessarily can possibly remain a good place for Jews. What happens to us will eventually happen to Muslims and vice-versa.

If you are a foreign visitor to a country and not a citizen, of course, you respect its laws and customs. Once you become a citizen, you create its laws and customs. In the United States, we neither restrict nor promote religion. Every person is responsible for their own religion. I wish Europe would learn this from us.

StylishMuslimah said...

SDK: You make some very valid points and so has everyone else but I still stand by the notion that there does not seem to be this expectation for Muslim countries to provide pork for non-Muslims, for Jews to provide non-kosher meat for non-Jews or Hindus to provide meat-containing meals for non-Hindus. Why then, is there an expectation for Christians to provide halal or kosher meat in their schools?