The United States, founded by European migrants that followed Christianity, does not share the same cuisine as the Middle East. While Middle Eastern food is characterized by the use of spices, nuts, and creamy textures in combination with meats, the United States is home to a large variety of food, such as American foods - namely burgers, hot dogs, and other fast foods associated with the massive corporations of the US - and a variety of cuisines from all of the countries in the world as a result of its diverse population. For most people, the diverse options for foods from many different cultures and backgrounds open up new meals that can be eaten by anyone. However, for Muslims who follow the dietary laws of Islam, finding food options that meet their dietary needs can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to finding food that is halal, or permissible under Islamic law.
In the Middle East, the expectation is that meat is halal, a word that translates to "permissible" in Arabic. This includes guidelines on what types of food are permissible to eat, how animals should be slaughtered, and how food should be prepared and handled. For instance, halal meat - the only meat Muslims can eat - is obtained solely from the slaughter of animals by cutting the jugular vein and windpipe in the neck. For Muslims, consuming halal food is an important aspect of their faith and a way to ensure that their diet is in accordance with Islamic teachings. However, finding food to eat is a common difficulty that new Muslims face in the United States due to a lack of halal options.
Muslims only make up a small percent of the total United States population, meaning most locations do not cater to their needs. For instance, most grocery stores do not sell halal meat, and a majority of restaurants do not serve halal foods, including the widespread fast food chains such as McDonald's and Subway. Along with that, pork is commonly used in dishes in the United States, meaning restaurant menus often have many dishes that Muslims cannot eat at all. As a result, Muslim migrants often have to travel far distances to get to halal grocery stores that often have higher prices and cannot eat most meats from restaurants, being either limited to vegetarian options for meals or outright unable to purchase food from some places.
It should be noted that as more Muslims arrive in the United States, halal options expand as a result of new restaurants opened by immigrants and restaurants desiring to appeal to all customers. In the future, halal foods may be common in restaurants; in fact, from 2016 to 2021, the halal foods market in North America expanded by 8.97 billion dollars, and it is expected to keep expanding in the future. However, anti-Muslim backlash from Americans hinders the expansion of halal foods; many consider the practice "barbaric" with little knowledge of the true nature of halal slaughter. Along with that, larger fast-food corporations may not implement halal slaughter at their restaurants, as halal meats are often more costly and thus could turn away potential buyers. While progress is being made towards the expansion of halal options in the United States, it will still be a while before halal options are easily accessible to all in the United States, and Muslim refugees will still face struggles finding halal foods.