The Halal Snack Pack: Religious tolerance in a polystyrene box
In 2015, a delicious phenomenon revolving around the humble little kebab shop began to emerge online. The Halal Snack Pack has become a symbol of the acceptance of Islam in modern Australia. Known as ‘HSP’ for short, it is a simple dish of crispy chips, kebab meat, melted cheese, and drizzled sauce, served in a polystyrene box.
HSP lovers nationally and internationally unite on the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society (HSPAS) Facebook page, a platform where people can post and review the HSPs they have found from every nook and cranny of Australia.
The HSP reviews critique both the food and the overall experience of the kebab shop visit. The rated categories include: halal certification signage, greetings, each component of the HSP (chips, meat, cheese, and sauce), packaging, and price.
The Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society is becoming exponentially popular, with 186,000 members bringing great business to small kebab shops.
Roy Al-Adhami, owner of Black Rock in Weston, received a call from his family in 2015 about the growing trend of HSPs in Sydney. They advised him to put their own HSP on the menu for Canberrans.
“When we started it we were not expecting it to go that quick,” Roy said.
“On a regular basis we had probably three or four nights a week. We used to have the shop full of HSP customers. We were going through 150 to 200 [HSPs] a week.”
The HSPAS has developed its own slang over time. This slang incorporates and uses Arabic words and religious terms, such as ‘assalamualaikum’ or ‘salam’ (meaning ‘may peace be upon you’) as the most commonly used greeting. The kebab shops that are raved to have the best HSPs are considered the ‘meccas’, and a trip to these shops is titled a ‘pilgrimage’.
HSPAS members have also created a twist to these Arabic words using terms such as ‘halal’, meaning permissible, to express how great a HSP experience was or to praise good deeds. ‘Haram’, on the other hand, means forbidden, and is used to describe unacceptable posts, reviews and/or HSP mistreatment. Consistent violators are dubbed as ‘haram dingos’, a person who is extremely sinful and most likely an ignorant Australian.
There is no avoiding politics and current affairs when religion is integrated into the HSPAS page. When the Brussels terrorist attacks in 2016 occurred, members were quick to state how the people involved were not representative of the majority of Muslims. The page was completely empty of religious discrimination, and even cursed out the terrorists for what they had done.
Surprisingly, the HSPAS is extremely up to date with Australian politics and news. The HSPAS has made Senator Pauline Hanson the face of the ‘haram dingos’ as she has strong beliefs against Muslims and Halal certification.
This presentation of Islam has become easily digestible for non-Muslims and has created an environment where both Muslims and non-Muslims can come together.
The page is accessible to everyone and has become a sign of interfaith acceptance. The use of the Arabic adopted HSPAS slang by non-Muslims in the posts and comments are always well received when executed correctly.
It is fascinating how the internet and a greasy box of kebab shop food has pushed Islam into popular culture. The HSPAS has become a medium of embracing multiculturalism and educating people on some basics of Islam. Hopefully this is a step forward to countering Islamaphobia within the younger generation of Australia.