Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Halal Food: Unofficial Halal Subway

This is an article about the "first" Halal Subway store in the US. It shows that if you try to seek/offer Halal, Allah will make it easy for you eventually.

Often, Muslim restaurant owners argue that selling Halal is too costly and that customers are not enough. They forgot that Allah is the provider. More importantly, they forgot that selling Haram makes their income Haram and subsequently blocks their Dua's (supplications) even when they are in desperate need, as mentioned in the authentic hadith about a stranded traveler whose dua being rejected due to his Haram intakes and Haram clothing).

May Allah grant us Halal and save us from Haram (both food and income).

Nation's Only Halal Subway Shop Big Success
By Suleman Din
Religion News Service

ISELIN, N.J. -- There's just one place in North America where an observant Muslim can follow Jared's diet -- the two-sandwich-a-day plan that helped Subway pitchman Jared Fogel lose 245 pounds.

The Subway restaurant that adheres to Islamic restrictions is off Route 27 here, and it is indiscernible from other Subways, except for a neon green sign in the window spelling out "Halal," the Islamic equivalent of kosher.
In two years she has served halal food at her Subway, Ruhila Khan has built a following from all over the tri-state area. The success can be seen in the Sales Volume awards on the wall behind the register.

"I don't have enough space to hang up all of them," Khan said, smiling. "I did something for Allah, and he has blessed us."

In a state with one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, restaurant owners and community members say it makes business sense for mainstream restaurants to cater to Muslims.

"It's symbolic of our acceptance in the fabric that is America," said Irfan Rydhan, founder of zabihah.com, a Web site that lists halal restaurants across the U.S. "Especially if you grew up here. Your home cuisine is American cuisine."

Muslims consuming fast food is not a new concept; globalization has made U.S. brands available in Islamic countries. For instance, just outside Islam's holiest mosque in Mecca, wealthy Saudi Arabians can munch on halal Whoppers or Kentucky Fried Chicken while watching pilgrims perform the Hajj.

But in the U.S., choices for Muslims have been limited to restaurants offering traditional ethnic fare, Rydhan said. Independent Muslim-run fast food joints started appearing in the 1990s in urban centers that have sizable Muslim populations, such as Jersey City.

Now, a younger, suburban Muslim consumer wants the same fast-food brands as other Americans, he said.

The breakthrough with American fast food restaurants has come from franchise owners like Khan and Ali Hashmi, who owns a nearby A&W Root Beer Restaurant that also serves Halal food. Both are Muslim immigrants who convinced their chains they could tap a fresh market.

Khan, who owns the Subway shop with her husband, Shahnawaz, said opening an American fast-food franchise that sold halal food was something she wanted to do since immigrating from Pakistan 15 years ago. When she went through training to open a Subway franchise, Khan said, she pushed for the chance.

What helped convince Subway, Khan said, was the restaurant's location. Near the Garden State Parkway, the nearby "Little India" strip, Muslim butchers and ethnic restaurants, the sandwich shop gets much of its business from the South Asian Muslim community.

"We give our franchisees leniency, so they can use local options," said Subway spokesman Kevin Kane. "They know what's in their community."

Subway also has numerous restaurants in Muslim countries, Kane said, adding that recently in Ohio, the first kosher Subway restaurant opened.

Halal dietary restrictions are very similar to kosher rules. Pork is forbidden and the slaughter of animals for meat is done under special guidelines, so the meat remains uncontaminated with blood. Halal rules are taken directly from the Quran.

Customers who come into Khan's Subway restaurant can order from the standard menu. Or, they can choose from a small printout taped to the wall that lists the halal menu. The sandwiches are the same minus the Italian BMT (pepperoni, Genoa salami, and ham) but Khan keeps the halal meat in a separate fridge, and uses different utensils to handle it.

Just a year since opening, the nearby A&W has yet to rival Khan's Subway. Most Muslim customers come on the weekend, said Mahmood Iqbal, who runs the store with Hashmi.

Without permission to openly advertise the halal option at their restaurant, Iqbal said they rely on word of mouth. The only indication halal is served is a laminated menu on the counter and on the cash register, there is a special yellow-and-red button labeled "Halal Chicken."
"Many of our customers, they eat Indian food at home," Iqbal said. "They come here because they want a change."

Iqbal has faith business will pick up at the A&W, and keeps a green Islamic prayer mat behind the counter, for the devout customer to use in a pinch. "One guy wanted to do the evening prayer, so he went into the party room and prayed, while I made him his dinner," Iqbal said.

While Khan and Hashmi drove the decision to serve halal locally, one American chain now offers halal at all its locations.

Outback Steakhouse began serving halal lamb, though Muslim customers have to make sure they don't get their vegetables dressed with "seasoned butter," which contains bacon in the seasoning, and avoid the cabernet sauce. The chain's supplier of lamb meat is a New Zealand-based company that follows halal standards because of its large business in the Middle East.

There is no official count on the number of restaurants in America serving halal food, but Rydhan said he has seen an increase.

"I started in 1999 with 20 restaurants in the Bay Area," he said. "Now on average, I'm getting 20 new additions to the list every day."

Source: Beliefnet

Friendly Reminder: Even if it's halal, calories still counts.

Keywords: Halal subway, striving for halal, halal substitutes, halal options, living halal, fear Allah, trust Allah

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