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Lack of halal options impacts Muslim students

Maryum Imam, a senior living on campus, has not eaten meat at Hofstra for three and a half years, not because she is a vegan, a vegetarian or because she dislikes meat, but because she is Muslim.

As a Muslim, Imam only consumes halal meat, which is food that is prepared in adherence to Islamic law, as defined by the Quran.

Hofstra University currently does not offer halal options to students on campus. As a result, Muslim students struggle to find variety in the dining halls, as circumstances have kept them from obtaining a vital part of any well-balanced diet: meat.

“I would love to see more halal food because I dorm here and I don’t have a car, so I can’t really go out and get halal food. It would be really convenient to have it here,” Imam said. “I think it’s nice to be all-encompassing and inclusive. We have a really dynamic and diverse campus, and so I think we should accommodate everyone.”

As schools like Stonybrook University are expanding their options to provide halal choices to students, Sadia (Seemi) Ahmed, the Muslim Chaplain of Hofstra’s Interfaith Center, explained that potential students may feel less inclined to apply to Hofstra University.

“[Students] have very limited options. They are just eating vegetarian most of the time, and you know students love chicken and they want meat. I have kids and they love meat. One of them doesn’t even eat vegetarian which is not good, but it limits their options. It would be great if they could have all the options, especially when there are so many other options available,” Ahmed said.

Michael Ogazon, director of Budget and Dining Services, was sure that Hofstra offered halal options, but was uncertain of the specifics. Meanwhile, Compass Group administrators affirmed that there are no halal options offered at the university.

According to Compass officials, the demand is not enough to push the university to make such accommodations, and space issues make it difficult to introduce new vendors.

“If we do put something in, then what do we take out? We would have to ask our students what they are willing to get rid of,” said Rich Maha, the resident district manager of Compass Group.

“We have fish, salmon and vegetable options. They may be able to navigate freely without even worrying about it,” Maha said. He explained that if requests come in, then the administration will listen to the masses and act appropriately.

Executive Chef Kevin Kenny said the university never had clamor for halal food. “From the business side of it, there is a much bigger Jewish population on campus, and less Muslim students … We don’t procure halal foods on purpose. If it ever became prevalent we’d certainly react to it.”

Yet, as Hofstra’s diversity expands, the university has had to adjust to meet certain secular standards. Recent innovations, including a new secular calendar, have made way for a more inclusive establishment.

As a 10-year dining contract between Hofstra and Compass Group concludes in the spring, the Muslim Students Association anticipates more improvements and inclusivity in the dining halls with a new contract.

MSA’s president, Maryum Quereshi, a sophomore political science major, is a commuter student. Having to spend long hours on campus, she said “My diet was restrained to vegan options or vegetarian options. That obviously has an effect on your health overall. On top of that your overall happiness is reduced because you’re not eating meat ... When I became president, I realized that there are students who have to stay on campus as well. For those students, it’s especially more difficult because if you live in Texas, there is no going back and forth for you.”

Ogazon explained that in the new contract, they are looking to compliment what the university already has. “They’ll take a look at what’s being used, when traffic is light or demand is slow … If anything, we want to add more vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and halal options. In the last survey, students said they wanted healthier options and larger operating hours.”

MSA member Rasheen Awais said, “The population of Muslims is increasing, not just at Hofstra, but all around the world. We need to accommodate everyone else. So if Kosher is accommodated for Jewish students, then why not us also?”

Many students rely on a halal truck which parks outside the Netherlands. The truck is part of a small business, independent of Hofstra, which serves as a supplement to campus options for many students.

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