“The thing about halal is, you can cater to any demographic,” says Sameer Sarmast founder of the popular Sameer’s Eats blog. “It can be halal Mexican, halal Chinese, halal Greek. If you cater to different people, different cuisines, you’ll attract a crowd.”
Sameer is part of a wave of social influencers and bloggers who are helping to bring halal cuisine into the mainstream. Halal foodies or self-described “haloodies” have contributed to a boom that is attracting non-Muslims to halal foods. It’s also leading some Muslims to question whether the purpose of the practice is being lost as many Muslims consider eating halal essential in their relationship with God.
“There is sacrifice, intention, and consciousness” to halal foods, says Yvonne Maffei, cookbook author and blogger of My Halal Kitchen. “The process is very intentional and is dedicated to God. It means we can feel good about what we are eating.” Ms. Maffei says she thinks interest in halal foods grew as more non-Muslims took an interest in eating “clean.” “I think it is because of the transparency factor… Consumers know that if they buy a halal product, they know what is in it.”
Adnan Durrani, founder and CEO of The American Halal Company, says that 80 to 85% of people who purchase his company’s popular Saffron Road halal food products are non-Muslim. “They see halal as a journey to better values, to ethical consumerism, and a better environment.”
According to New Food Economy, halal’s higher profile has brought some controversy. Sociologist and religious historian Romi Mukherjee says some Muslims fear that the spiritual element of eating halal is getting lost in the more commercial aspects. “There is suspicion among traditional Muslims about halal becoming a stand-in for religious philosophy. They say Islam is not simply what you put in your mouth or how you dress, but about theology and dogma. Without these, halal is not enough.”