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Specialty Grocer Caters to Muslim Americans

  • Odil Ruzaliev

The continuing influx of immigrants to the United States has meant a proliferation of shops, restaurants and other businesses catering to specific ethnic clienteles. For producer Odil Ruzaliev, VOA's Jim Bertel has more on businesses reaching out to Muslims living in the U.S.

There are believed to be between five and seven million Muslims living in the United States. One of the challenges they face is reconciling their identities as both Muslims and Americans. This dual identify affects their lives in many ways from praying to buying groceries.

Islamic dietary laws provide a set of rules as to what Muslims may eat. As the number of Muslims in the U.S. has grown, so have the number of stores catering to their needs. These stores are known as Halal stores. Halal means lawful in Arabic, which in turn means meat sold in the stores comes from animals slaughtered according to Islamic practice. The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America says there are close to 1,000 Halal stores and restaurants in the United States.

Among these is the Halalco Supermarket near Washington, D.C. Muhammad Abdul-Mateen is the owner. "We have, maybe, everyday about 200 to 300 customers."

One woman we spoke with shops here regularly. "I come here often, every week and buy meat (and) some other stuff, (like) Islamic food," she says. "We come here to even buy clothes, Islamic books and CDs."

Generally, Halal meats are more expensive than meat sold at regular markets, but Abdul-Mateen says his customers do not seem to mind. "Supply and demand (are) what make the beef costly or less costly."

To ensure the meat sold under the Halal label adheres to Islamic rules, at least eight U.S. states have laws against mislabeling. Abdul-Mateen says his market buys meat from slaughterhouses they know and trust.

The same is true with the 200 Halal restaurants across the United States. Adiba Faraz is an immigrant from Afghanistan. She opened a restaurant with her husband. "We wanted to serve our Islamic community, because we sell Halal food and we are confident about it. We built everything from the ground up," she says.

Muhammad Abdul-Mateen sees the Halal restaurant business as a growing trend and hopes to open his own Halal restaurant near his store sometime next year.

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