Halal or haram

October 22, 2007 at 3:38 am Leave a comment

The cultural diversity of Singapore can be seen in many different ways in the food culture. Religion is one factor adding to the complexity and diversity, especially the Muslim and also sometimes Hindu influences. The Hindu influence can be seen in the type of food they serve. It is often vegetarian food, as Hindus favor vegetarianism, although chicken is a common ingredient used. Muslim influence can be seen in wider scope. One way it can be noticed, is in the school cantines, upon returning the trays. The trays are separated according to whether they held muslim or non-muslim food. This is because of the Muslim dietary rules of food being either “halal” (allowed) or “haram” (not allowed). Most muslim food stalls display certifications that their food is halal. According to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America [http://www.ifanca.org/halal/]:

“All foods are considered halal except the following, which are haram:

* Swine/pork and its by-products
* Animals improperly slaughtered or dead before slaughtering
* Animals killed in the name of anyone other than ALLAH (God)
* Alcohol and intoxicants
* Carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears
* Blood and blood by-products
* Foods contaminated with any of the above products”

These strict rules on for example not to eat pork are in clear contrast to the food culture of the main Chinese population. Pork is almost the most commonly used meat in many of their foods. Something that got my attention was also that they do not make food out of only the meat parts, but also intestines, knuckles, stomach, and various other parts that in Finland would not commonly be encountered in everyday food. As a comparison to Singapore, in Finland the lack of cultural diversity (around 95% of the population are ethnic Finns) also means that in the food culture concepts such as “halal” are largely unknown. Singapore really seems to be a melting pot of cultures and religions, in the way that very different practices coexist side by side to serve the different needs of the different cultures.


Entry filed under: Cultural Reflection, Food - Indian, johan.

Thoughts Table manners – The Outsider’s View

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