So I am having a conversation with this brother about his intentions to place take his children from their home in Jamaica Queens and send them down to Virginia to go to school and he asked me if I want to accompany him to the halal supermarket and I said sure.
The store has an Indian-Pakistani section, an Afghani-Iranian section, and an Arabic section. Other parts of the store sell only meat, canned goods, rice, vegetables, breads, spices and other items that could be from anywhere in the Muslim World. The only thing that is uniquely American in the place is the halal bacon, hot dogs, hamburger patties and chicken nuggets and the brother I was shopping with did not purchase any of those items (although women that didn’t speak English were picking them up left and right).
The brother did buy a lot of things, some of them Arabic foods, and some more Indian-Pakistani, and left with several bags of groceries. I then asked him where he went shopping for his regular food, you know all the normal stuff that people eat in America (whatever that means to you and wherever you grew-up) and he said, “what you are you talking about, I just bought all of my groceries.”
I found that odd since there was no milk, soda, or any other common American beverage that he had bought. No, he just had a few jugs of mango juice to drink. When I asked him if he ate this kind of food everyday he said yes and that he never ate the food he grew-up with anymore.
This seemed odd given the fact that he is an African-American and he is married to an African-American. You mean to tell me, I asked him, that you have suddenly lost a taste for all of those foods your mother and grandmother fed you and you craved growing-up?
“Brother these are Muslim foods that I eat now and I only eat Muslim food. The food I grew-up with in this country is kafr food and when you go and eat pizza, cheeseburgers, fried chicken and stuff like that you are imitating the kufar and The Prophet (s) said “whoever imitates a people is of that people.”
So in this brothers mind, and he is far from being the only one, eating hummus or biryani everyday is equivalent to an article of faith. Never mind the fact that much of Arabic and Indian food predates Islam and is eaten by Non-Muslims in the region and never mind the fact that there is no Islamic injunction against eating any kind of halal food anywhere in the world.
If one travels across the ummah you will find that the food varies greatly. Turkish food doesn’t taste like Egyptian food and Senegalese food doesn’t taste like Malay food. Yet these are all Muslim peoples and the food is cooked and prepared in a halal manner and they will not tell you “this is Muslim food” they will tell you “this is the food from my country”.
Yet in America, and maybe elsewhere amongst Western Muslims, we have a group that wants to eat only “Muslim food”. As for me I can, and do, and enjoy food from all over the Muslim World; but at the end of the day I want my pancakes, waffles, beef sausages, mashed potatoes, macaroni, fried chicken, meatloaf, hamburgers, deli sandwiches, pizza, pasta, soups, sweets, cheeses and everything else that I grew up eating.
I like Moroccan and Indian food but I can’t eat anything everyday and that may be a difference between a lot of people in America and in the Muslim World. When I lived In Palestine I enjoyed the food but after a few weeks I didn’t want to eat the same thing everyday; but that is what the brothers there do and they never get tired off it. Brothers who have married sisters from Morocco tell me the same thing that their wives can eat the same thing everyday. Most Americans need variety, we need to innovate, and we need to mix things up, and eating the same thing everyday just doesn’t work for a lot for people (unless you are my grandfather who eats cornbread and buttermilk everyday).
If Bulgarian or Palestinian Muslims can merge their jahiliya foods into their Islamic diets then why cant American-Muslims do the same thing? Thankfully many are and you can go to places like the Coney Island Restaurant in Newark, NJ and get a nice greasy halal breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs and pancakes with hot syrup. Or you can go to a Kennedy Fried Chicken in New York (and there are dozens) and get some halal fried yardbird. One of the best days I had as a Muslim was when the masjid in Wichita, KS decided to have American Iftar night and served all food a brother had made from a Churches Chicken franchise he owned. What I enjoyed most of all was watching these immigrant brothers eat our food; because every other night that Ramadan, and it was one of my best, I had to eat theirs.