By: Alfie D'Souza, Team Mangalorean
' A man and his wife were not allowed to sit beside each other at a McDonalds outlet in Pakistan by managers, who were told that such behavior would have a negative impact on the " islamic family atmosphere" of the outlet. When the man asked the McDonalds' crew member why he couldn't sit next to his wife, the employee replied, " Sir, this is a family restaurant. Couples sitting together is against the policy of McDonalds Pakistan, as it goes against the family atmosphere of the restaurant ' --News Media
Mangalore : If you think that only Mangalore these days is worst city to have a social life or a party at a pub, private resort or club, because of the so called ' moral police' who in the name of culture, control and don't allow all those social activities to happen, then check this out - yet another 'religious group' in the name of religion and culture in Lahore/Karachi, Pakistan don't allow loud music and glitzy American decor in restaurants or fast food outlets which try to coexist with the country's strict rules on modesty. Even many branches of fast food giant McDonalds in Pakistan have partitioned areas for families, to separate men from women. And for that matter with the latest incident, even married men can't sit closer to their wives. What's next at Pakistan McDonalds ? Probably Dads won't be allowed to sit next to their daughters or Moms won't be allowed to sit with their sons ??
McDonalds has nearly 21outlets in major cities in Pakistan. The alleged incident highlighted a difficult issue for Pakistan's restaurants, particularly fast food chains where certain religion rules and regulations is strictly enforced. Just like a masala dosa which tastes better at a Udupi restaurant in Manipal, will not taste the same at a Udupi restaurant in Indian Town ( Devon Avenue) Chicago, USA. Similarly a hamburger in Chicago will not taste the same in Lahore, Pakistan. It's all in the ingredients, and also that ham is prohibited in Pakistan, and also many other countries including India at fast food shacks. Multinational fast food companies frequently struggle with local religion and cultural sensibilities.
What is popular as a burger these days at pubs or fast food joints, used to be a bun-Kabab for decades in India when not many knew of McDonalds even in the US. McDonalds has come a long way and has its presence in controversial countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Brundi, etc, also Pakistan in the list ( nothing to be proud of though). Despite all controversies , McDonalds and other fast food chains have survived. Last month, I learned from a news media, that Pizza Hut, Pakistan was forced to withdraw its " All You Can Eat" offer during Ramadan in order to end what it called an " invitation to gluttony" as customers gorged themselves at the end of a day of fasting. And in India, McDonalds is planning to open its first vegetarian branches close to two holy sites, leading to threatened protests by Hindus and Sikhs.
But whatever the case, people are attracted to McDonalds no matter where and which country they establish their outlets. Actually flourished and they are popular with children and youths around the world. I will also add students, because it is where one can get the cheapest meals, especially in the European and North American countries. My all time favorite was big and juicy Big-Mac, and McChicken while I was in Chicago. Off course, it is a budget meal indeed and many a times, it is a food for low-income families in OECD countries,. I have to confess that is is very addictive !
Now going back to the story as reported by the news media, Loman Ansari, an exporter, said the incident occurred at a McDonalds outlet in Karachi on Sunday September 9, 2012 when he and his wife decided to stop for a drink while returning from a friend's birthday party. Even when Ansari pointed out that they were married, the employee said: "I am sorry sir, but you can't sit side by side." According to Ansari's account of the incident in a blog posted on the media website, he decided to take up the matter with two managers, who told him "this was a policy from upper management because couples, even married ones, sitting with each other, were a negative impact on the Islamic family atmosphere of McDonalds".
Ansari, who pointed out that he had seen couples sitting together while growing up in Saudi Arabia, said he was "amused yet also saddened" by the incident. "Amused, because it was all very silly, and saddened because of the state of affairs this brewing incident was pointing to," he wrote in the blog.
"The question is; who are they to judge us?" he wrote. All three McDonalds employees involved in the incident, he said, did not have the "aura of extreme minded Muslims". The employees were only following orders and if "anyone is at fault here, it is McDonalds Pakistan", he said.
The incident has sparked a fresh debate on the attempts being made by Islamic hardliners to mould public behaviour and thinking in line with their own puritanical beliefs. Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Pakistan but Ansari pointed out that Islamic law "doesn't suggest something as ridiculous as forbidding couples to sit together".
Of the thousands and thousands of people who participated in a poll on Ansari's blog on whether men and women should be allowed to sit together at restaurants, an overwhelming 87 percent responded positively. There was no word from McDonalds on the incident. Just a advice to the married couples who may be planning to visit Pakistan, and decide to have a quick bite at McDonalds - Men please leave your wives at the hotel or home ? Seems like McDonalds Pakistan, not a right place for honey-mooners ?