By Ola Salem, The National
DUBAI // Muslims can now travel abroad armed with information about some of the more obscure ways they could inadvertently break Islamic food requirements while they are away.
In western shops and on menus, pork and alcohol products may not be labelled as carefully as in the UAE, and Muslims carefully avoiding bacon or wine can easily be tripped up by innocuous sounding but haram products like brawn or maraschino.
Dubai Municipality’s food control department has produced a leaflet containing common non-halal food terms. It is available to the public, and will soon be handed out at Dubai International Airport.
“We used to get lots of requests every day asking about the food [Muslims] shouldn’t eat abroad,” said Shamsa Sulaiman, an awareness officer at the municipality.
“There are terms that even our staff didn’t know, and since the pamphlet was made a lot of people have started to come in requesting it from us.”
The directory contains a list of 19 alcoholic drinks, including vin rouge, maraschino and gin. “Some people do not realise some of these are included in ingredients, and they see these names and they don’t know they all mean alcohol,” Ms Sulaiman said.
The leaflet also gives 22 different terms that may indicate pork or pork derivatives. They range from the basic, such as ham, bacon and animal fat, to the more esoteric rasher, haslet and pepsin.
Roaa Atif, a 26-year-old from Al Ain, almost blundered on a trip to London last summer. “You’re on holiday, you go to a fancy restaurant, and of course nothing makes sense on the menu,” he said. “So you pick something randomly, thinking the name looks safe.
“I got this thing called brawn, and after they took an hour to bring it out, it turned out to be pork.
“I was so hungry and so tempted to eat it. I blame the waiter, who was Egyptian – he should have seen that I wear a scarf and don’t eat pork.”
Others admitted to having accidentally had a few bites of haram food before realising what exactly they were eating.
Ghanim Sufian, 29, a Palestinian resident of Abu Dhabi, was served a beef steak cooked with alcohol last month on holiday in Spain.
“It tasted funny,” he said. “I wasn’t going to ask, but then I did, and it was what it was. They should warn people.”
Hamid Ali, a 23-year-old from Dubai, resorted to vegetarian food to be safe on a recent holiday in England. “Everything was covered in pork or something,” he said. “I thought I would be anaemic, but then realised one week without meat wouldn’t kill me – but I feel sorry for Muslim residents.”
According to Islamic scholars, Muslims should not be blamed for inadvertently eating non-halal food.
“It would not be held against him or her in such cases, if ever he or she commits a sin by accident, or forgets, then he is not held accountable,” said Dr Mohamed Abdulatif, a professor in Islamic studies at UAE University.
Although many Muslims living in non-Muslim countries find it difficult at first to be sure of what they are eating, most manage to adapt.
Halal butchers are now common in many non-Muslim countries. In the UK, major supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s sell a range of halal products, as do some fast-food chains. Since 2009, 92 of KFC’s 800 British outlets have been halal.
Five thousand copies of the non-halal food leaflet are being printed for Dubai International Airport. “We hope this will help people not to make mistakes again when they are out of the country,” Ms Sulaiman said. She called on non-Muslims to help by warning Muslim customers and friends abou