June 18, 2019
“Are you a vegetarian?” I hesitate whenever I’m asked this question.
Depending on where I am, I’m a vegetarian, a pescatarian, or a full-on carnivore. As a Muslim, my answer is contingent on whether halal meat is available around me. More than ever before, I've been able to choose to be a full-on carnivore.
In Arabic, halal means “permissible,” and when food is halal, it’s permissible to eat because it was prepared according to Islamic law. The animal is slaughtered by the jugular, so that it feels as little pain as possible. It is then drained of its blood and the butcher blesses it with a prayer — Bismillahi-Allahu Akbar (In the name of Allah the greatest). The method also rids the meat of a lingering iron flavor, so it’s not only more hygienic, it also tastes better.
I officially started eating strictly halal when I was in the seventh grade, a decision I made hastily but confidently. I wanted to be a better Muslim by adhering to a seemingly effortless rule. It meant giving up most fast food and limiting myself to vegetarian meals in the school cafeteria, which usually consisted of pizza and tuna wraps. But some days it got so repetitive and lackluster that I skipped lunch altogether.