The nature of hot dogs has been the topic of hot debate for years. Primarily the argument centered on the sandwich-ness of the meat tubes, but in Malaysia, a religious regulatory authority is raising a more linguistic issue. According to a report from the AP the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) told American mall food court staple Auntie Anne’s that if it wants to operate as a halal restaurant in the country it needs to remove the word “dog” from its menus. That means Auntie Anne’s needs to figure out something else to call its pretzel wrapped hot dogs.
In a statement a Jakim representative suggested the company change the name to “pretzel sausage” and Auntie Anne’s has agreed to comply with the request, though it hasn’t settled on a final name yet. In a country where over 60 percent of the population is Muslim, serving halal food is a necessary part of doing business.
The reason for the name change demand though, is what caught everyone’s attention. The Jakim rep said it is because, “In Islam dogs are considered unclean and the name cannot be related to halal certification.” Indeed, according to Malaysian guidelines posted by NPR, no restaurant can be certified as halal if it includes “confusing terms” like “beer,” “ham” or “hot dog.” The concern seems to be that people will end up either believing they ate actual dog meat or that eating dog meat is ok. If that seems unlikely to you, you aren’t alone. The Malaysian Minister of Tourism and Culture worried to the BBC that this could make his country seem “stupid and backward.” That seems a little extreme, but it does seem like it might cut into tourism by baseball stadium vendors.
Regardless of where you come down on the “is hot dog a confusing name” argument, one thing we can all agree on is that a hot dog is not a damn sandwich.