Islam In China’s Food Safety Problems

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In recent months, there has been much negative focus on Muslims in China with regard to food. At least three incidents have triggered much debate and vitriol on social media.

In Xining, Qinghai, a halal confectionery was attacked last May by Muslims who suspected the confectionery of selling pork products. In Xian in Shanxi, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets to protest against the sale of alcohol in Muslim restaurants. And in Xinjiang, several foreign media reported on Muslim shopkeepers being forced by government officials to sell alcohol and cigarettes in their shops.

Such incidents highlighted the tensions within Muslim communities as well as with non-Muslims.

Following on the heels of these incidents came the announcement in June that a proposal by the Ethnic Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress to draft a national law regulating halal food had been dropped. The proposed law was opposed by many, including Xi Wuyi from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who said that the law violated the principle of separation of religion and state in China.

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At the same time, internet users have been commenting aggressively on social media against the rising tide of Islam and a “Muslim invasion” in China.

Is such a fear justified? Or could this Muslim “invasion” in the form of religiously ordained food serve to unite and create a better and safer China?

In Islam, food laws are succinctly codified in the Arabic word “halal”, which essentially means “legal” and “permissible”. In summary, the rules require the consumption of meat only from animals that are ritually slaughtered and the avoidance of pork, blood and alcohol.

In China, the term halal translates as qingzhen. A phrase meaning “pure and true”, qingzhen captures two meanings in Islam, that of halal, religiously prescribed foods, and toyyiban, a larger concept in Islam referring to a pure and wholesome life not only in terms of diet, but also in speech, thoughts and deeds.

Collected by Wellgreen