Muslim students dissatisfied with halal Bruff meal plan

Canela López, Associate News Editor

Sophomore Abi Mbaye feels isolated walking into Bruff Commons. Mbaye is Muslim and unable to eat the food offered because it forces her to break her halal diet.

Halal translates to “permitted” or “lawful” in Arabic, and people who keep a Halal diet are only allowed to eat foods that comply with Islamic law. According to the halal diet, animals must be killed and blessed in a specific manner and certain substances are prohibited such as blood, alcohol and pork.

“It’s really sad because you don’t see any Muslim students around, none of the food that’s there we can eat, so it feels extra [isolating,]” Mbaye said.

According to Mbaye and other members of Tulane’s Muslim Student Association, Muslim students find it very difficult to find halal food options at Bruff.

Tulane requires all first and second year students who live on campus to have a meal plan.

Director of Dining and Auxiliary Services Lisa Norris said that specialized meal plans are available to Muslim students.

Though a specialized meal plan is available to students, Mbaye and sophomore MSA member Hafsa Shibli both say the way food is prepared at Bruff limits options for Muslim students because halal meat and food cannot come into contact with non-halal, or haram, food.

This sometimes results in Muslim students having to pay for a meal plan they do not use, and having to buy additional weekly groceries to eat.

“I say this as someone who pays for a meal plan and does not go ever,” Shibli said. “I haven’t been there all year. For my parents, they pay for a meal plan and I’m also buying groceries and they’re like ‘why?’ and I’m just like there’s no option, there isn’t food there.”

Some students like Mbaye believe that there is a double standard in the way students who keep kosher are treated as opposed to those who keep halal.

Upon arrival to Tulane, it was suggested to Mbaye to register for the kosher meal plan, an option that is set up in cooperation with Hillel’s Kitchen where students are able to pick up kosher meals instead of eating at Bruff.

“I was like, I’m not Jewish,” Mbaye said. “I’m Muslim, I eat halal. They didn’t have a halal meal plan, which I thought was really bad because they have stuff that Christians can eat, stuff that Jews can eat, why not stuff that Muslims can eat?”

According to Norris, kosher meal plans are offered because 26 percent of Tulane’s population identify as Jewish, as opposed to the .06 percent that identify as Muslim.

“This small portion of our total student body would make it economically unfeasible to create a meal plan and designate a kitchen to prepare halal-only meals,” Norris said.

Shibli said this small population may also be the reason Muslim students have not raised concerns to Tulane’s administration in the past.

“You could also argue that not enough people have ever said anything about it,” Shibli said. “A few other people that I knew had issues but we never said anything. Before we blame the system, we need to look at the fact that we never fought the system.”

During the Call for Unity, MSA made a statement touching upon the issues that surround the lack of halal options in Bruff. Ahmed and Mbaye spoke on behalf of MSA in order to voice their concerns regarding the dining restrictions.

“We want to be recognized as members of the Tulane community who have just as much right to […] a meal plan that does not force us to break our diet,” Mbaye said.

Due to the concerns voiced by MSA during the Call for Unity, Ahmed says that the administration is now in touch with the organization and is working to formulate a solution to the lack of options at Bruff.