27 December 2007

Happy to eat apart

Have you noticed that at some food courts, there are no more halal-certified stalls? Full essay.


antrix said...

Just a couple of observations. After reading Zainol's post, I don't think his suggestion amounts to having _all_ restaurants and food courts Halal certified. I think he just wants at least one establishment in every food court to serve Halal certified food. Whether even this is a legitimate request is another concern, but thinking in those terms does render a big chunk of your article without a point :-)

Also, as a vegetarian, I find myself in a very similar situation in Singapore.. perhaps even more difficult than my Muslim friends! The 'mental map' of vegetarian friendly food courts is considerably smaller too :-)

How I wish we had a 'recognized' vegetarianism religion and could lobby for at least one veggie friendly place per food court ;-)

Sillyporean said...

YB, your comment link in full essay doesn't work.

Anyway I think it's up to individual Muslims to decide how strict they want to be. I do feel halal food is an outdated concept, and should evolve with time.

Instead of having to eat halal food, why not just avoid pork and lard? That is what modern and progressive Muslims should do.

Just take the example of some Buddhists avoiding beef. They don't insist on prayers or ceremonies for their food.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

antrix -

My reading is that he did say "all", and given the context of Malaysia, he would mean all the stalls in all the foodcourts. From my occasional visits to Malaysia, this seems to be the standard that Malaysians are used to.

Anyway, it's a small point, tangential to what I was trying to say in the article.

Anonymous said...

compare the chap chye png and the muslim food stalls at food courts, the muslim food are more expenisve.

i boycotted the muslim food stalls in food courts long time ago.

they are more expensive then the chinese food available (same number of dishes, eg one meat, one egg and one veg).

wonder is it the muslim food stall pay more in rent or is it they use premium raw material?????

Anonymous said...

the again maybe it's because they do not have the customer volume like those from the chines food stalls, so either to charge more or sell their muslim food esle where....with cheaper rent....

Anonymous said...


You should pay a visit to Causeway Point 6th level. There is an exclusive halal food court there with very strict warnings on not bringing any other type of food or utensil to that food court. It is a Malay kampung in itself! It never was that way here in Spore, way back in the 70's, 80's & 90's, we ate freely at food courts or hawker centers. There never was such a strict segregation. So why now? What is the agenda? What purpose does it serve? As long as the food caterer is Muslim in a mixed non-religious food court, every race & ever religion can partake in the food. Building social walls & barricades around religious food courts/centers has defeated social cohesion in Singapore within a very short time!

Anonymous said...

It is not just certain stalls being halal. It has to be segregated as the utensils have to be separately used and washed. In effect, you need an entirely stand-alone section for the halal food. Even the cleaners will have to be separated. This approach is done for the food court at the basement of Clifford Centre. When you buy halal food, you are not allowed to bring it out of that section.

That being the case, it is difficult to ask private enterprise to do it by fiat. The entrepreneurs will have to decide for themselves whether it makes economic sense to create a halal section.

Mohd Hisham said...

hi YB,

can i suggest that you take a look at the cafe/restaurant at the Royal Plaza at Scotts.

it purportedly served only halal food on its item, however, beer/wine is also sold. reason being, it is a hotel.

now strictly speaking, this is an impossible situation, which the muslim populace has somewhat chose to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex
As you note briefly, its basically a matter of economics:
MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King etc in SINGAPORE are 100% Halal.
When 30% of the teenagers with buying power are Muslim, business is just going to follow....

When these teenagers grow up, without the diluting effect of foreigners, it is a matter of time before the major "adult" eateries become Halal too. Pure economics, I do not think that MacDonalds, Pizza Hut etc are concerned about racial or religious harmony!!!

Anonymous said...

this is just part of the general trend of muslims becoming more stringent about their practices, e.g. 20 years ago few Malay women wore the tudong; today is very common; in fact I remember a few years ago some girls had to stop going to public schools as their tudongs violated school uniform code; it appears however that the matter tapered off somewhat since then


Anonymous said...

It doesn't take alot of effort to be considerate. However, this requires a bit of education. If you dunno, then you dunno and even if you do something offensive, you still dunno.

If you know you know and that goes a long way to supply a reason to change the way you choose to work, live and play with muslims.

Generally, If I see a cashier who is muslim and I happen to have pork or a bottle of alcohol - I give her a miss. I don't want to put him or her in a position.

Same goes for eateries, if I see muslims eating on a table, I let them be.

Or if I have to go for a meal with a muslim client, I usually opt for a halal outlet.

At the end of the day, its a matter of how much you are willing to respect the rights of others.

It doesn't take alot of effort.

Darkness 2007

Robert L said...

Quote: "Will this lead to further invisibility of Malay-Muslims in Singapore? Will Singaporeans, Muslim and non-Muslim, never acquire the habit for sensitivity simply because the trend is towards segregation rather than interaction?"

Dear YB, I can't help but feel a little amused when I read your article. It reveals that you do not visit the Sammyboy forum. Over there, a few days ago, I've learnt that Halal outlets have proliferated all over Singapore, much contrary to the picture you've painted in your article.

As a post above this has already mentioned, all McDonald's and other fastfood restaurants in Singapore are Halal registered. The truth is that the fear has swung the other way. Non-Muslims in Singapore are now alarmed that after they have gone shopping in supermarts and have beer or wine in their grocery bags, they may not be allowed entry into all those fastfood restaurants. That means they can't eat at McDonald's, KFC, Burgerking, Delifrance, etc.

So it's not Muslims that are marginalised for not having Halal outlets, but non-Muslims are marginalised in being barred from entry to Halal outlets.

I see that you have already touched briefly on this possible problem in your article. For a longer discourse, go to the Sammyboy forum and look up the thread on Ah Mei Restaurants. The last I checked, it seems that MUIS has ruled that beer cannot be brought into Halal restaurants by the public even if they don't consume it within the restaurant. I think they have created a big problem for people in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Interestlingly enough, some Sikhs don't eat food that is Halal. It's part of their upbringing and interpretationof some teachings. So not everyone eats halal food. And if i were to eat meat, (i'm vegetarian), i would rather eat the meat of an animal that has been killed swiftly, not one which has had it's throat slit and dies a slow death. I have no idea why the need for suffering in animals.

Anonymous said...

This issue of halal food putting non-muslims off is often not discussed when non-muslims are around for fear of offending but it is an issue that has irked non muslims. It is not uncommon to hear of company functions having to go halal because of a handful of muslim employees. In the "old" days where there was limited "choice of halal restaurants, functions were often not satisfactory because of higher cost and poor quality. To make matter worse, some Muslim colleagues didn't even bother to turn up. But non muslims just accepted this as "boh pian". But some asked why this acceptance was always lopsided leh?

I have also had friends who work in vegetarian places but not halal. Their muslim colleagues would rather seclude themselves in some room eating their halal food than to bond with their non muslim colleagues during a communal vegetarian meal! The non-muslims could only eat together and sighed. "Boh Pian"

Would the almight really send anyone to hell for consuming non-halal food?

How far does one want to go with being halal. The dollar notes and coins are definitely not halal and might even have passed through a pork seller's hand!

What about the railings in public? I am sure DNA testing would dig out porcine traces.

Let's use our intelligence, god-given or otherwise to think wisely about these issues instead of being blindly adherent!

And this slitting of animals in front of children should really not be condoned and be rated "for Mature Audience" only. If violence on the media promotes violence in real life, "live" violence of a screaming animal struggling under a knife for its dear life, is surely a strong imprint for violence of other species, such as our own. Yet the rest of the communities cannot utter a word of protest against such barbarism for "religious sensitivity" and sigh..yet again.. Boh Pian
and utter a prayer for the poor creatures whose suffering of being transported in cramp containers and the fear of hearing cries and cries of throats being slitted, come to an end.

Anonymous said...

We talk often of the minority being marginalised. But foodcourts like Banquet which serves only halal food does the reverse. The majority non-Muslims are deprived of lard in their char kway teow and bah chor mee. Without lard, these foods taste terrible. Of course from a business point of view, it only makes sense to have all halal menu to bring in the bucks from the muslims. But we have the freedom of choice, too. I juz boycott these foodcourts.

Anonymous said...

Yes its the non-muslims in Singapore that are being marginalised. Bending over backward due to increased sensitivities. Food quality suffers, choices reduced. Fast food are worst after going Halal.

Anonymous said...

I think the 02 January, 2008 17:42
Anonymous 03 January, 2008 13:08 overstated their case; while char kuay tiow without lard is non-viable, I doubt it made a difference to McDonald, especially as health considerations would have dicated the use of vegetable oil instead of animal fat in any case; there are enough food outlets around so having a few halal only foodcourts would hardly reduce the choice of non-muslims

the real issue is why muslims have chosen to be more stringent


Anonymous said...

to be "fair", maybe we can check what's the percentage of Malays in the local population. it should be about 20-30%?

then in a foodcourt that has, say, 10 stalls, there should be 2 to 3 stalls that are halal certified. ideally then you're talking bout one stall run by a malay-muslim, another by an indian-muslim and if there's a third, then by some entreprising singaporean chinese who goes where he smells money's to be earned.

if you go by percentage of population, that will be the best gauge for demand (and thus supply) and it's based very much on market-forces and capitalistic principles. this should work since singapore is very much a capitalist island and almost every singaporean a first-world consumerist.

this also mirrors the HDB ruling of 25% of the flats in each block going to the minorities.

you must be saying all this is ideal and won't work. if that's the case, then why are we saying the pledge every day every year?

the above suggestion may be idealism but hey! it's gotta start somewhere. "regardless of race, language or religion [we makan together]...so as to achieve happiness [when we're full], prosperity [for the hawkers] and [material] progress for our nation"

muslim_observer said...

n the comment by the Malaysian Muslim visitor to Singapore, he obviously didn't get the tourism board's guide to halal-eating in Singapore (which I only found recently). What he probably should appreciate is that Singaporean halal-certified food is probably more genuinely halal than what he considers halal Malaysian food - I've known of Malaysian food establishments who cut corners on their meat suppliers etc, and Muslim (in name) chefs who pour alcohol all over their sauces (and most Malay food entrepreneurs don't even bother getting certification). Ask him to find a JAKIM certified restaurant and he'll find that they're few and far between as there are many many many restaurants and food establishments like hotels etc who serve halal meats but sell alcoholic drinks.

On the various interpretations of what is halal food (and other matters of religious practice), you might be interested to know that there are 4 main 'mazhabs' (or loosely translated as schools of thought) in the muslim world. The classification of shellfish into what is haram (or non-halal) is practiced by muslims who follow the hanafi school of thought, and if I'm not mistaken, they're mainly based in South Asia. You can liken this to various differences found within Christianity and Judaism, with minor differences in how we practice our faith, but with commonalities in what we believe in (e.g. we have differing opinions on what is categorised as halal food, or how we view Islamic banking etc, but believe in the same pillars of faith etc etc etc). Within the main 4, there are regional differences in the extent of 'halalness' as one commentor mentioned. In the strictest sense (which is applied by government bodies like JAKIM in Malaysia and MUIS in Singapore), yes, utensils should also be segregated from pork and its by-products as the non-halalness of it can't be cleaned with soap and water. There are scholars who argue that as long as the shared utensils are clean and there's no pork or non-halal meats on your plate, it's fine.

Muslims in Singapore often practice what is the norm for the community and one can say that the increased 'display' of religiosity may even be linked to increased levels of education (e.g. consumption of alcohol for ppl in P Ramlee's time in the 60s was possibly more common in the community than today, or at least more frowned upon, mainly because of religious education). Some may argue that with increased education, why don't Muslims abandon our 'traditional' ways, but that's like saying that devout every-Sunday churhgoing Christians are less intelligent/educated than their Christmas-mass-only counterparts.

Personally, I've spent my life in various multicultural countries and there are a few things that I've picked up.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you (to borrow wise words from another faith).

Hence, whenever I organise anything that involves food, I use disposable utensils (to appease the strictest vegetarians) and have dishes that satisfies non-beef, non-meat-eating/non-chilli-eating ppl (and properly labelled), out of respect.

I guess that's the word when it comes to dealing with ppl of other cultures, to approach one's understanding of their lives and the things that they hold dear with respect, just as you would hope that one would approach you and what you value without pissing all over it with condescension and judgment. And from my own experiences of befriending atheist, vegetarians (who in my opinion have a worse culinary fate that I do in these parts of the world), Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and agnostics, it's not an easy feat (so those of you who complained about Muslim colleagues not showing up to catered events, if you really want them to show up, I'm sure you can find ways of engaging them in the planning. Personally, I do get apprehensive abt functions in SG mainly because there have been more than a few occassions when I found myself standing in front of a buffet line wondering what I could eat, and ending up with 10 pieces of mini-brownies for dinner! Now I just ask in advance and inform my host that I have dietary restrictions (it is after all, considerate to inform your host) and enquire if they could possibly accomodate it somehow. (and before anyone shoots me down for this, I'm not talking about making the WHOLE buffet halal, just give me a few seafood dishes without alcohol in them, or a cheese sandwich. No biggie - :P )

On another note, I worked in KL for a few years and one thing I observed is how different things are over there (esp in the more 'urban' areas of the city) - just as you can see many tables of single-race groups, you can also see almost as many tables of mixed-race groups huddled over a hot mug of teh tarik. Or nasi lemak. Considering that teh tarik and nasi lemak are so ubiquitous in Singapore as well, I once remarked to a friend, why is it so different here?

I guess what we see in the food courts and the demise of the lone Muslim stall, is a by-product of a deeper social issue, and not one that's perpetuated by what we eat itself. After all, eating together is an intimate affair, where acquaintances usually only start off with coffee, no?

As for me, as a Muslim consumer, I tend to shun the lone Muslim stall in a big food court for one simple reason, lack of choices. Why should I go and choose between prata and rojak, when I can walk a few blocks further and choose between prata, rojak, nasi lemak, nasi rawan, mee goreng, bee hoon goreng ikan bilis, soto ayam, laksa, roti john, nasi goreng (fill_in_the_blanks_here)... you get my drift. I think the problem all boils down to economies of scale. Bigger is sometimes better...

Anonymous said...

Read School canteens should provide good mix of different food: MOE

In a letter to all parents, principal Wan Imran Woojdy said that since the school canteen had been certified halal, children would not be allowed to bring non-halal food onto the premises.

The school security guard and discipline master had also been checking lunch boxes since last week to ensure pupils complied.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago I used to enjoy breakfast at macDonalds, Buger King and Pizza Hut (Hawaii Pizza!). I like the smell and tates of sizzling bacons and sausages. These are not served anymore and I have stopped visiting these places.