Veganism in the Arab world – Middle East



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Veganism in the Arab world

A People's Advocate for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is on the sidewalk next to the modern art museum Center Pompidou, also known as Beaubourg, to raise awareness about World Vegan Day in Paris, France, November 1 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

In the Arab world, the concept of veganism is often received with confusion. Many people do not understand why anyone would adopt a diet that would exclude meat products or animals or think there is something wrong with you to undertake such an undertaking. However, these attitudes are changing now.

Nothing Elbarshoumi, the writer of One Arab Vegan's blog, UAE, told The Media Line via e-mail: "I believe that veganism is on the rise in the Arab world, especially in the last five years or so. There is growing awareness of vegetable-based diets in the Middle East, mainly for health reasons. "

She explained that other reasons for people in the region to become vegans included the environment and concern for animals, and argued that Arab countries were generally similar in terms of vegan meal options.

"It is difficult to identify specific countries by being friends with vegans," Elbarshoumi wrote in his e-mail. "I enjoyed the incredible vegan food here at GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries (the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait), as well as Lebanon and Egypt, and I am sure other countries in the region would have similar things to offer. "

Ahmad Safi, founder of the Palestinian Animal League (PAL) in Ramallah, believes that Palestinian society is already vegan, because restaurants in the Palestinian Territories offer vegan options.

"There's a falafel booth at every corner," he told The Media Line.

He also states that vegan food is more affordable economically as it is cheaper than meat dishes – although blogger Elbarshoumi emphasizes that meat plays a significant role in Arab society.

"Meat is almost sacred in the Arab world – it is at the center of many of our meals and dishes, and as a result forms much of the Arab cultural identity. It is also very connected to religious festivals and celebrations, "she said.

Safi told The Media Line that the meat signals the magnanimity in the community.

"The flesh is a symbol of generosity. You offer meat to your guests when they come, "he said, adding that where he lives, people believe that something is missing when they do not eat meat.

"They do not consider a meatless meal a" full "meal," he explained.

Elbarshoumi agrees, adding, "I think the barriers to veganism in the Arab world are largely cultural – there is a perception that plant-based diets are nutritionally inferior, and the notion that eating meat does not that you are less inherently "Arabic."

Although not generalized, veganism has the support of powerful figures in the region. Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal is a vegan and tried to promote veganism in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab world. He expanded his initial plans to open 10 vegan restaurants in the Middle East to 30.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said in a statement to The Media Line: "From the new vegan restaurants chain of Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed to the Beyond Burger that began to emerge in Dubai and O milk now available in many coffee shops, demand for vegan food is growing rapidly in the Middle East – which is already famous for traditional vegan dishes such as mujaddara, muhammad, dolmas and more. AnimalsInIslam.com is a popular website and celebrities like [Jordanian boxing champion] Arifa Bseiso is joining PETA to show that vegan life is a global issue. [Editor’s note: AnimalsinIslam.com is sponsored by PETA.]

Safi, of PAL, says a vegan diet is more in line with Islamic values.

"When the Prophet Muhammad ate meat," Safi told The Media Line, he did so under very specific conditions. He said that you should eat according to your needs and that you should not kill animals indiscriminately. "

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts faculty in Berkley, California, disagrees.

"In a famous collection of [the prophet’s] said, we find "Beware of the flesh, for it has an addiction like that of wine". [However,] he encouraged the meat on feast days and said, "Meat is the staple food," Hanson told The Media Line.

"The Prophet Muhammad would today be categorized as a semi-vegetarian," he said. "Given the current treatment of the animals, he would be shocked and would only eat animals fed grass and treated humanely."

Blogger Elbarshoumi believes that the number of vegans in the Arab world will only increase as society struggles with increased diabetes and heart disease.

"The more the movement of food as medicine takes, the more people will probably adopt and adopt veganism," she wrote to The Media Line. "I think we need to become more open to culture, abandon the stigma surrounding plant-based nutrition, and encourage awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet."

(Tara Kavaler is a trainee in The Media Line's Press and Political Studies)

For more information visit www.onearabvegan.com

For more stories visit www.themedialine.org

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