Today we’re chatting to Soufia Beum, a 25-year-old advocate of the vegan muslim movement.
She talks about her transition to veganism, its relationship with her religion, and how change always comes from a grassroots level.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan for just over a year now. As a Muslim, I am taught to show mercy to all of God’s creations, including animals and the environment and I believe that kindness in Islam should be extended to all living things.
God says in the Quran that animals are not mere resources but communities just like us, but the way animals are mass farmed today – caged, beaten, the process of how milk is extracted – it is completely unacceptable.
What was your diet like before veganism?
I was never a huge meat eater growing up and I was a vegetarian for a good five years before transitioning to veganism. While I was a vegetarian I cut out dairy and eggs too, so the process was not that difficult for me. I didn’t really label myself as a vegan at this point because on the odd occasion, I sometimes slipped up and ate a slice of margherita pizza or a maple pecan pastry (which I really miss, vegan bakers in Manchester please conjure something up for us).
What were your go-to meals when you first started?
I was quite used to cooking plant-based dishes as a vegetarian, so I stuck to baked veggies, buddha bowls and rice noodles like I had before. Buddha bowls are so easy to make and I can make them with leftover vegetables so I’m creating less waste. Then I will add quinoa, rice, grains and seeds if I’m feeling adventurous.
How did you friends and family react to the change?
My family and friends were positive and supportive, and they were really open to learning more about the movement. They’ve supported the Instagram page Muslim Vegans since the beginning by sharing it with their networks. Some even joined Meatless March.
I’ve hosted dinner dates at mine for friends to try vegan food and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. They’re open to trying vegan food spots with me and have also provided vegan options when I go to their houses for dinner. So if you are reading this, thanks guys.
Did you know many other muslim vegans at that time?
I knew of muslims who were trying out the vegetarian lifestyle but at this point I didn’t know of any other vegans who were muslim. Shortly after I embraced the vegan lifestyle I decided to start an Instagram page in the hope of connecting with more people as well as sharing my love for cooking.
The number of muslim vegans is definitely growing. We get lots of positive responses from people everyday – whether it be muslims trying vegan recipes or muslims implementing a long-term change in their lives.
Why do you think this is?
I think people are becoming more conscious of what they are eating, especially with the meat scandals in the UK, and with more and more videos/articles popping up on the conditions of slaughterhouses and the abuse faced by animals people have been forced to think about what they are putting on their plates.
What resources did you use to learn about the lifestyle and find out about other muslim vegans?
When I first started learning about the lifestyle, I mainly looked at Instagram pages and websites for information and that includes information from the ethical side to the general health side. I also looked at the lives of early muslims who kept their consumption of meat very minimal.
In terms of education, social media is a great place to start. Before social media, we would never have had access to a lot of the information we have now. I found it very useful because I was able to connect with more vegans, share experiences and recipes, manage awkward interactions at restaurant and discover lots of food. But most importantly, I have the opportunity to influence people online.
Can you explain what the general relationship is with food for many muslim people?
Muslims have always been mindful of what they eat. The choices we make in relation to food are always connected with our beliefs, from what the food is to where our food comes from. The Quran and Sunnah (lifestyle of the prophet Muhammed peace be upon him) recommend food rich in nutrients and that which is beneficial to our bodies.
Likewise, it also prohibits food that is harmful. We are advised to eat and do everything in moderation and not over indulge. Eating simply and in moderation is linked to our spiritual wellbeing, as is sourcing the food as ethically as possible.
The choices we make in relation to food are always connected with our beliefs, from what the food is to where our food comes from.
What challenges do you feel the muslim vegan movement faces? What is the aim of the movement?
There are people in the Muslim community who believe being a vegetarian or vegan goes against our principles. This movement aims to sincerely encourage them to think about the source of their meat, to educate themselves on the conditions that are required for their food to be halal (permissible) and to reflect on whether or not the current meat industry meets the required conditions.
Do you have any future plans for @muslimvegans?
Yes, with Ramadan coming up this year, I’m hoping to design and write an ebook- a 30 day meal plan – to inspire muslims to indulge less in a month that is ultimately about giving .
What advice do you have for others who want to try veganism?
There has never been a better time to consider switching to a vegan diet, because there are so many great resources available at the tip of our fingers and great recipes. Eating green has never been this exciting.
We have a responsibility to take action against the abuse faced by animals as well as reducing our ecological footprint. We have the power to change the world we live in by quite simply implementing small changes in our lives and encouraging people around us to implement those changes too. Real change has and will always come at a grassroots level.
We have the power to change the world we live in. Real change has and will always come at a grassroots level.
To keep up with Soufia’s story you can follow her on Instagram.
And read the rest of the 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days stories here.