Enjoying Your Guilty Pleasure in Halal Ways: Milo, McDonalds, and Chinese Muslim Tourists in Malaysia

Authors: Yang Yang*, University of Colorado - Boulder
Topics: China, Religion, Tourism Geography
Keywords: Materiality, Mobility, Halal food, Muslims, China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper looks at halal certified snacks and fast food and how the consumption of the so-called halal “guilty pleasures,” especially Milo and McDonalds, constitutes Chinese Muslim tourists’ experiences of traveling in Malaysia. Focusing on the experiences of urban Hui Muslims in northwestern China, this paper addresses the process of transforming the halal version of the so-called “unhealthy food” with Western origins into symbols of higher forms of Muslim universality and hence the global Ummah. Specifically, the halal-ness of the “guilty pleasure” transcends their features of being high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar into a “less guilty” and hence healthier choice preferred by Chinese Muslims. Consuming these foods in Malaysia also become a must-have experience for the Hui tourists to perform their quality of being pious Muslims, which is often compared with their experiences back home when their access to halal snacks and fast food is much limited. The Hui’s practices of indulging themselves with halal snacks in Malaysia, therefore, contrast with the Chinese state’s wariness towards halal standardization as a potential trigger to radical versions of Islam. Malaysia, as a comparison, is thus celebrated as a role model by the Hui Muslims for the governmental support in promoting the Halal certification process on products and services. By looking at the roles of snacks and fast food in the encounters between Muslim minorities and the Chinese state, this paper suggests focusing on the materiality of everyday objects that blur the boundaries between the religious and secular.

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