After only spending one month in America so far, I am already facing a bunch of food struggles, which makes me wonder: how do Muslims in America do it? Back in Malaysia, getting halal food was never a problem, but now the tables have turned. Even the simplest thing, like buying a cookie, requires a lot of time and consideration. But first, you'll need to understand the difference between halal and haram.
Halal and haram are concepts that Muslims live by, especially when it comes to food. Simply put, halal food is meat that is slaughtered the Islamic way, or any food that doesn't contain anything haram (e.g. alcohol, pork).
Unfortunately, halal food isn't easily obtainable in America. So, Muslims, like myself, have to face endless struggles on a daily basis.
1. Opting for vegetarian meals
Why? Because it's easier! I don't have to go through the hassle of explaining myself and making special requests to the head chef. However, just because it's easier doesn't mean it's better (or tastier). I opt for vegetarian meals, but by the time I reach home, I always find myself digging through my refrigerator, trying to find the leftovers I made the night before.
2. Inspecting food labels at the supermarket
I have always been an impulsive shopper; I throw anything I think looks tasty into the trolley. However, now I don't have a choice but to start reading food labels. This limits the things I can or even want to buy. Although I know which ingredients to avoid, examining food labels is still very time-consuming, so most of the time I give up and decide not to buy anything.
3. Having to refuse when someone offers me food
I don't know which is harder: trying to avoid hurting someone's feelings or saying no to free food. Because I value relationships and people's feelings, I tend to give excuses like "I'm on a diet," or "I'm too full!" when someone offers me food that I can't eat. Despite how many beef pepperoni pizzas and bowls of ice cream I've turned down, it still hurts every time I have to do it.
4. Feeling uncertain about what is in my food
One thing I absolutely hate is when I start having doubts about what's in my food. What if there's lard in it? Is that chicken? The "what ifs?" just keep coming and cloud my mind. Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I threw away or donated my food because I had suspicions, I would be rich.
5. Realizing that I probably ate something haram at one point
I'm trying my best, but it's not easy to totally avoid haram food. During my first few days in America, I consumed a lot of haram food by accident. When I found out, I felt sick to my stomach, but then I realized that there was no point of me dwelling on it. Instead, I prayed for God's forgiveness, again and again, until the uneasiness went away.
The difference between halal and haram is a pretty easy concept and shouldn't rule your life in America. If you're a Muslim reading this article, don't lose faith, because I'm not! Things will definitely get easier.