Minnesota’s Holy Land is leading by example

Every now and again you have an experience that reaffirms your belief in all that’s good, in humanity, generosity, good food and good company. Our recent visit to Holy Land in Minneapolis was just such an experience. Holy Land is a multi-functional Halal market zone with a bakery, grocery store, restaurant, catering service and general all-round meeting place that was filled with the hum of a growing community.

The first thing you notice upon entering Holy Land is the buzz of activity, like a well run ship where everyone has a job and is getting on with it. Like a ship’s captain, Majdi Wadi directs the varied activities with a watchful eye, generous hand and a good word for everyone, and his vision and passion for the business is infectious. You get the feeling that everyone in there, on both sides of the counter, is glad that they were there, and that in itself is no mean feat!

You are also struck with the variety and quality of the produce, all well-presented in a clean, bright environment. You cannot say the same about many Halal produce stores, and it is really refreshing to see that Majdi and his crew have realised that a Halal market can be somewhere that everyone can enjoy shopping and eating in.

And the figures are there to prove it. A recent survey of Holy Land customers showed that 43% were white middle-class Caucasians, and this alone is a remarkable achievement that is really demonstrating, by leadership and good example, how to move the Halal industry into the mainstream.

A quick look at the Friday lunchtime restaurant customers confirmed these figures, all of them enjoying the fat pita-bread sandwiches made with Crescent Foods’ Amish-raised Halal chicken (America’s, and probably the world’s, finest, by the way) or going for refills at the excellent Mediterranean buffet.

In terms of quality, the food is as good as you would find in a 5-star hotel anywhere in the world, if not better. You almost get the feeling that there is a secret ingredient, some Halal culinary secret that made it taste that little bit special. And when I met the chef, I saw what it was. It is love. I know I am sounding corny, but I have to say that this is the truth. Majdi’s brother Samir is the source of that special something in the food. He has a passion for his work, there is nowhere else he would rather be, nothing else he would rather be doing…and you can taste it, and you know why people keep coming back for more.

Under Madji’s command, the business is expanding. They are building a state-of-the-art bakery in the next door property that will be probably the best in the country, and have extended the market for the their pita products as far as Singapore. Is there any other company in the USA exporting bread? Maybe, but not many, if any.

The building they bought to build the bakery was a former bar, right next door to Holy land. It was a blight on the neighbourhood, full of drugs, prostitution and trouble, with police car sirens and flashing lights at all hours. Holy Land bought it, shut it down and is turning it into a place of productivity, providing jobs and creating wealth and cleaning up the neighbourhood at the same time. It is really no wonder that the local police and politicians are glad to see Holy Land expanding.

At a time when the Muslims all over the world spend so much time and energy arguing, lamenting and complaining, our visit to Holy Land was proof that it is time to stop feeling either angry or sad, and to get on with the rewarding business of doing what is pleasing to Allah.

A visit to Holy Land is a proof that Halal really IS good for everyone, and, like so many others, I am looking forward to going back.