Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No ham for Christmas: Muslim menu for West Australia hospital

No tolerance shown for Australian majority customs -- like ham at Christmas dinner

A WA hospital has scrubbed baked ham from its Christmas menu, fearing Muslim patients could be offended. It has also overhauled its entire menu so that all meals are now halal - containing only meat and other food prepared according to Muslim customs.

But Port Hedland Regional Hospital staff and many non-Muslim patients are outraged, saying it is a case of political correctness gone mad. Kitchen staff are so angry that they have organised a petition demanding ham be put back on the Christmas menu. Other WA hospitals are also introducing halal dining, though the Health Department says Port Hedland is the only one to convert its entire menu to suit Muslims.

Hospital directors decided to axe the traditional festive season baked ham because of the high percentage of Muslim patients. Eating pork or ham is forbidden under Muslim custom. Until now, Muslims were asked to supply their own food if they did not want to eat hospital fare. The hospital's nursing director, Judy Davis, said though ham was not on the menu, Christian patients would not miss out on festive cheer. "We'll still make Christmas special - we've got prawns and all sorts of other special treats," she said.

But one long-time Port Hedland hospital worker told The Sunday Times the menu change was "unAustralian". "It's going to be a boring old Christmas lunch for the patients," he said. "After all, what's Christmas without a ham, or Sunday morning without bacon and eggs? "The management of the hospital are unable to stand up to a minority and keep our Australian way of life intact. They are bowing to the pressure of a select few." He warned that the only politically correct fare would soon be "a bowl of rice and a cup of tea". "No wonder the true-blue Australians are getting angry," he said. "Now all we need is for someone of the Hindu faith to jump up and down and we'll have no beef. "Before we know it, if you're sick in Port Hedland, you will have to be happy with a diet of boiled rice and a cup of tea."

A Health Department spokeswoman said the menu change was about meeting the needs of the Islamic community. She denied it meant sacrificing Christian traditions. "Port Hedland has one of the largest Muslim communities outside the capital cities of Australia, and has done so for many years," the spokeswoman said. "Changes to the menu meant pork and ham were no longer offered to patients. "However, other meat and alternatives are available." She said no patients had complained, but the Health Department was aware that staff at Port Hedland were unhappy.

"We are aware that staff would like ham for Christmas lunch, and this will be provided by the hospital," the spokeswoman said. "The majority of hospitals try to take into account the different patient mix when deciding on their menu, and offer several choices."


Big Brother is Watching Out For You

A post about the near future lifted from Peg Kaplan

You're on vacation for the Christmas winter holidays. Strolling over to the local Barnes and Noble, you decide to pick up a hot, semi-trashy novel to enjoy by the fire. But alas; when you get to B & N, you can't find anything like that in the store. A friendly employee explains. "Oh, of course we used to carry those kinds of books. But, since the government passed the "Reading for your Mind" legislation, we're not allowed to carry anything other than Fine Literature and Non-Fiction. May I interest you in a copy of Macbeth? Or perhaps A Practical Guide to Vertebrate Mechanics?"

She continues on. "Actually, we feel fortunate that we're still allowed to carry any fiction at all. The Reading Committee for Your Health was contemplating barring anything that wasn't non-fiction. At the last minute, however, they decided to make exemptions for Shakespeare, Chaucer and the like. Can I help you find some 18th century literature? Or perhaps a nice book on string theory?" A bit in shock, you politely decline. No Good Girls Don't at B&N? Wow.

OK. Instead, you decide to go out for a pleasant dinner. Being the holidays and all, you elect to treat yourself to your favorite cuisine at Chez Trendy. They have a seafood dish in cream sauce that's to die for..... Uh oh. Apparently the Act for Better Eating has utterly destroyed the menu at Chez Trendy! No more snails swimming in butter, no delectably marbled meats, no alfredo anything. Other than fresh fruit, desserts have been eliminated. "Can I interest you in some steamed cauliflower and broiled turkey burgers?" inquires the attentive waiter. After checking the miniscule selection on Chez's menu, you ultimately decide upon the Baked Chicken Breast with Boiled Mashed Carrots. "I'd like a little extra butter for my carrots, too," you tell your waiter.

He blanches. "Butter?!?" he asks in a hushed but shocked tone of voice? Oh, sir. We aren't allowed to carry butter any longer in the restaurant. The Act for Better Eating only allows one tablespoon of canola oil per diner... Perhaps you'd like a side of low fat cottage cheese instead. That's still available - for those who are no more than 20% above the ideal body mass index." Now they're assessing your body mass when you go out for dinner? That's about it. You storm out of Chez Trendy, and decide to pick up a juicy cheeseburger at the local fast food greasy spoon. As you drive by, however, you see a sign out in front: "Closed. This establishment found to be Unsafe by Order of the Act for Better Eating."

Everywhere you go, it's the same. You wanted to splurge and get a glitzy piece of jewelry, but the Enforced Savings Regulations make it a felony to spend more than .5% of your annual income on precious jewels. The next morning, you and the family were going to go skiing, but that sport has been deemed a Highly Dangerous Activity and is now illegal.

Perhaps the worst blow was the warning you receive in your mailbox. "Warning. It has come to the attention of the FBM (Federal Body Monitoring) that you have not been exercising appropriately as of late. Please make certain that you complete at least 5.7 hours of exercise each week, fill out the details of same in this 16 page disclosure, and fax to us at 555.3812. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines, or even arrest."

Now, life in these United States isn't quite at this stage yet. And, if freedom loving citizens have their way, it won't ever get close. Sometimes, however, even the most sensible of people embrace the notion that government should tell us how to live - in our own best interests, of course.

Here in MN, Hennepin County just rolled back a ban on smoking. Actually, that's not quite accurate; smoking is still banned in restaurants, but relaxed for bars meeting certain criteria. The upshot? The smoking police are up in arms.

And we've all heard the stories about communities considering banning soft drinks for kids, advertising for fast food, or the inability to get a rare burger when you want it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy the fruits of smoking bans, I believe in eating healthy and exercising (at least, most of the time) - and I'm a strong proponent of living within your means and saving. I also think that loads of what we read, see and hear today is trash, and we'd all be better off if we improved our cultural fare. Yet I am also a strong believer that society is best served when everyone gets to decide for themselves how to live their own life. Who's to say what books are truly worth our while? If an individual chooses to be overweight and relish what they think is good food - who are we to stop them? Even though exercise is clearly beneficial for all - should we be forced into doing it?

Whenever people have choice, some percentage of people will get it woefully wrong. Still, the mere fact that we have that choice will force people to learn about their options, gain skills, and adapt to making wise choices. Otherwise - survival of the fittest will be the law that teaches them - and they won't like the lesson.

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