Food Practices and Ethics

“Food Practices: The Ethics of Eating”

by Magfirah Dahlan

Chapter Summary

Magfirah Dahlan’s chapter is focused on the ethical rules governing the production and consumption of food. Rather than giving us a dry explanation of legal codes on this topic, Dahlan asks a wide variety of Muslim Americans what they actually eat and their reasons for doing so. She explains how Muslim Americans decide which foods are halal, or permissible to eat. She also delves into the growing popularity of zabiha meat, that is, meat that is slaughtered according to ethical rules outlined in the Shari‘a, and simultaneously, she reveals how some Muslims are led by their own sense of Islamic ethics to become vegetarians or vegans.

Discussion Questions
  • What do halal and zabiha mean, and how do Muslim Americans interpret and apply these ideas differently?
  • What ethical arguments are made on behalf of vegetarianism by some Muslims?
  • How are ethical discussions concerning food in Muslim American communities similar to and different from non-Muslim groups and individuals in the United States?

Group Exercises

  • Create a halal menu based on products available in local stores or from local sources. You might blog, post, or tweet your menu. If possible, do a field trip to a halal restaurant or cater a party in which you can use your menus.
  • Check out the website for Halal Pastures. How does the company market itself?
Magfirah Dahlan (Ph.D., Virginia Tech) is an instructor at Craven Community College. Her dissertation examined progressive Muslim attitudes and practices related to the production and consumption of food.