A Chinese food delivery company that got in trouble for letting unsanitary food off its hook is under fire once again, this time for allegedly discriminating against non-Muslims.
The accusations started when Meituan introduced a “halal” button in its food delivery app, which vowed that such dishes will be transported in separate boxes so that customers can “eat more safely,” What’s on Weibo noted.
The company literally uses “separate boxes for halal food” to “put your mind at ease.”
While the button was only made available in certain parts of mainland China, many netizens argued that it was a move of discrimination toward Muslims, who apparently make up the majority of halal consumers.
Offended netizens took their frustration to social media and called others to boycott Meituan by removing the app from their phones. Some wrote (via South China Morning Post):
“Muslims need a separate box even for a delivery, you can see how they treat us, the non-Muslims… Meituan you are helping them to hinder us. I will never use your service,” one user wrote.
“Respecting them as a minority is alright, but don’t forget we are the majority. Why does Meituan give them exclusive service now?” another commented.
Others, however, did not find anything wrong with the matter:
“Halal food is available at school canteens and restaurants everywhere,” one user said.
“Even non-Muslims can eat halal food. Why does nobody have a problem with them?”
According to What’s on Weibo, the debate on the “halal-ification” of food products in China has been around for the past two years, which apparently grew hotter when authorities called for national standards on halal food.
Basically, those against the normalization of halal food in China — which is ruled by an atheistic Communist Party — perceive it as a supposed greater societal shift to Islam.
Word usage also brings issues to the table. In China, the word for “halal” is qīngzhēn 清真, which means “Islamic” and “Muslim”. It is made up of characters 清 and 真, which mean “clean” and “pure,” respectively. For this reason, others are offended upon interpreting that non-halal food must mean the opposite.
Finally, the spread of halal outside the avenue of food to become halal water, halal roads and halal toilets appears to be a commercial abuse of the concept.
Xiong Kunxin, a professor in Beijing’s Minzu University of China, told the Global Times that such alienates other ethnic and religious groups and would lead to further misunderstanding.