Last week British tabloids had a field day reporting that the nation's first halal Domino's Pizza outlet had opened in Birmingham, serving food that conforms to Islamic specifications. This means no ham, bacon, or even the standard version of pepperoni:
The new halal menu still includes many of the country's favorite pizzas, but with a halal twist on the toppings. Items on the menu include halal spicy beef sausage, roast and tandoori chicken, halal pepperoni, and halal cured turkey — all produced and stored within the HFA's [Halal Food Authority's] strict guidelines — and menus at the store will feature the HFA logo.
Abdul Mumtaz, proud franchisee of the Hall Green store, comments: "I am delighted to be opening the UK's first 100% halal Domino's Pizza store to better serve the needs of local residents. … The halal store has been launched following huge demand from the people of Hall Green, where a high proportion of customers are followers of the Islamic faith."
Many Britons are less than pleased. "It's a disgrace," one pizza lover lamented. "I can appreciate them having it as an option but to have it completely halal is just not on. I'm all for racial and religious tolerance but if anything this is intolerant to my beliefs and discriminatory against me. I had to travel two miles out of my way to their next nearest branch — I was appalled."
Let us take a deep breath and put the case into proper perspective, just as we did when the Islamic characteristics of Church's Chicken became news a year ago.
First, privately owned businesses are under no obligation to offer any specific item or service — hence, the "free" in "free enterprise." Customers therefore have no right to expect a given product to be available in a given location, even if they had purchased it there at some point in the past. The withdrawal of infidel pepperoni may be vexing, but it is not discriminatory.
Moreover, restaurants already alter their menus to accommodate different faiths. Take, for example, the fast-food outlets across the U.S. that will provide an expanded selection of fish sandwiches during Lent. Because Catholics comprise nearly one-quarter of America, this represents good business practice at a time when many people abstain from meat.
Yes, the Lenten example involves addition without subtraction; Burger King will keep selling burgers, while the Domino's has removed pork products entirely. But angry customers with bacon cravings can exercise their clout by doing what the above pizza lover did not: end their patronage of not just a single Domino's, but all restaurants in the chain.
One final note: reports indicate that going Islamic has improved business at the store, underlining the demographic changes now impacting Britain far beyond the realm of pizza toppings.