A Bronx lawmaker has one Halal of an idea.
New York City’s schools should be required to offer lunch options that meet Islamic law’s strict dietary guidelines.
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda plans to introduce the proposal in the next legislative session.
The bill comes at a time when the city’s Muslim population is increasing —including in the Assemblyman’s own Parkchester district, which is packed with immigrants from Bangladesh.
“It is important to represent and respect the customs of each child,” said Sepulveda. “Whether one child in a school observes these practices or many, each child should be made to feel welcomed.”
Strict Halal rules
Halal food must abide by Islamic scripture’s rules. Pork is always forbidden and meat must be slaughtered in strict ways outlined in Islamic scripture.
Sepulveda’s bill would add a clause to the State education law mandating that schools in any city with a population of over one million provide halal options.
Such a mandate would help hungry students like 10-year-old Tafadar Sunnah, a fifth grader at Parkchester’s P.S. 119.
Sunnah said she can sometimes use the salad bar at lunch, but most of the food would be unlawful for her to eat. She’s forced to watch friends munch on their meals while she either eats her bag lunch or has to use the salad bar.
“I’d really like to try the chicken nuggets,” she joked.
Forced to bring food
Sunnah’s parents usually pack her a lunch. Her father, Tafadar Raouf, suspects the school cafeteria’s vegetables might be cooked in oil that has touched pork, which would make it unlawful.
Even most of the bread the cafeteria uses is not technically halal, he said, since it is made with chemicals barred by Islamic scripture.
A spokesperson from the Department of Education would not comment on the pending legislation, and added that the DOE already serves 860,000 meals a day and has taken steps in recent years to provide healthier vegetarian options.
Bigger Muslim Voice
The halal bill is not the only Islamic-friendly school law on the table in a city where Muslims are finding a larger voice.
Mayoral-elect Bill de Blasio and his foe Joe Lhota both promised during their campaigns to recognize the Islamic holy days Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as official school holidays.
They cited a statistic that 13 percent of the city’s students are Muslim.