Muslim Students Search for Meals on Campus

(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

By Kylee Ehmann

(Graphic by Mark Klekas)
(Graphic by Mark Klekas)

A good meal on campus is hard to find, especially if there aren’t any places serving food you can eat.

For the U’s Muslim minority, eating food or drink permitted under Islamic Shari’ah law is difficult at best. There aren’t any venues on campus that serve what are called “halal foods,” which must be prepared in a certain way — for example, meat should be slaughtered humanely.

Thamer Almansour, a senior in urban ecology who is Muslim, said he has eaten on campus a few times, but he typically makes his own food or buys off campus (with about nine possible restaurants around Salt Lake).

“Honestly, I have never seen halal food in campus at all so far,” Almansour said. “Not every Muslim is OK with any food like me. Some of them only eat halal food, so they have to bring their own food or wait until they finish classes to go eat.”

He thinks the U otherwise does a good job at including Muslim students on campus. ASUU funds the Muslim Student Association, and there is a prayer room in the Union.

“The only thing that they should do more for us is providing halal food on campus,” Almansour said.

Food that is “haram,” or forbidden, in Islam includes alcohol, pork, carnivorous animals and birds of prey. Animals also must be killed by a Muslim while facing Mecca. Before the animal is killed, the person says “Bismallah” (in the name of God) and then “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest) three times. A sharp knife is drawn across the animal’s throat without cutting the spinal cord, and the blood has to be drained. This is thought to be the least painful way to kill for meat.

Almansour said it may be strange to understand, but people should think of it in the same context of kosher food, the dietary restrictions of Judaism.

While Muslims make up a small minority of students at the U and residents in Utah, they are a growing population. As the university and the U.S. Census Bureau do not collect data on religious affiliations, exact numbers are hard to come by. But according to a 2008 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, less than one percent of Utahns (about 13,226 people) identify as Muslim, though the actual number may be around 20,000.

Additionally, students from Saudi Arabia — a country where nearly all residents are Muslim — comprise four percent of the total international student body at the U. There are also many second and third-generation Muslims from Utah’s Somali and Bosnian refugee population attending the U.

Kim DiNardo, marketing manager for the U’s Dining Services, said while the university doesn’t have it readily available, they do providing catering of halal foods. She also said if a student is on a meal plan and has dietary restrictions, they can sign a meal plan accommodation form and meet with a chef or director.

“We want to make sure our students are eating and getting the most out of their meal plan,” DiNardo said.

DiNardo said if having halal food is important to enough students, it may be possible to have it as a more mainstream service. She said those interested should reach out to her via email at [email protected] or Reggie Conerly, the district manager for Chartwells dining at the U, at [email protected]

“It’s important that we try to take care of all students that come to the U,” Conerly said. “We should try to accommodate and celebrate all cultures through food and be inclusive to everyone.”

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