3 Answers to your Questions about Peace Dinners
by Rebecca Brown
You’ve already taken the steps to plan your Peace Dinner and you’re equipped with our 5 tips for hosting successfully, but you may still find yourself feeling nervous or unsure about any number of elements of your peace dinner. Here are answers to a few questions you might have. If you don’t find the answers you need here, feel free to email us and let us know what other questions you have.
Critical question #1: Are Oreos halal?!?!
Short answer: Yes, Oreos are halal. Go ahead and start your happy dance.
While this question may seem silly, it’s critical to be sensitive to dietary guidelines when hosting people for food. Last Christmas season I co-hosted several peace dinners in the spirit of reciprocating the hospitality our Muslim friends offered us during Ramadan. It was the second time on event-day that I was questioning whether I could use a certain ingredient as I prepared dessert. I knew vanilla extract was a no-go (it has alcohol in it—imitation vanilla is okay). But what about Oreos? I had bought the ingredients to make Oreo truffles, but after scanning the package ingredients I realized I had no clue if they were halal! Oreos could have some kind of hidden forbidden ingredient. So I did what every conscientious friend would do: I googled it. Unfortunately, navigating different national standards and changing recipes left even the halal websites with unclear answers. Some said yes, if you’re in England; some said no, it has haram animal fat, etc.
Because it wasn’t clear, I did what every host should do: I texted my Muslim friend (the one who told me about vanilla). With great joy, she confirmed that, yes, Oreos are halal. “And one of my favorites!” she added.
Critical question #2: Can I leave my dog out?
Short answer: It depends.
Like many elements of large cultural groups, there is a TON of variety amongst ethnicities and individuals. Some Muslims are completely comfortable with dogs (and have owned their own), while others have never been in close quarters with a domesticated pup. I lean toward keeping my dog out of the way when I have Muslim friends over. She’s very enthusiastic, jumps up on people, and sheds, but if your dog is calm and very obedient, you might be able to get away with leaving her out - just be sure to let your guests know this when they arrive.
The key here is to realize that there’s a wide range of preference with your Muslim guests—just like there will be with your non-Muslim guests.
Critical question #3: Will Muslim guests want to pray during the timeframe of our evening?
Short answer: Likely.
Usually dinner times fall around two of the five daily prayer times. While not all Muslims pray at the exact prayer time (there is a range of appropriate time to do the prayer), some Muslims choose not to pray for various reasons. However, it is likely that some of your Muslim guests will want to pray during the Peace Dinner. For this reason, it would be best for you to make clear that you have a particular, separate place where people can pray. This space should have clean floors, preferably a carpet, and should not be in a bathroom.
I have found the practice of pre-determined prayer times falling in the middle of social engagements to be a welcome relief and re-centering experience for me. If there are multiple people going to pray, I sometimes join them by quietly sitting nearby and praying as I normally do.
Good luck, go for it, and enjoy your Peace Dinner!