"Porkophobia" - "a faux - principle of faith"

A closer look at our culture of disgust


A puzzling phenomenon in contemporary Muslim culture is that of "porkophobia." Porkophobia describes a syndrome that includes many symptoms such as severe disgust, waves of nausea with occasional vomiting or increased heart rates and sweating when Muslims encounter pork or pigs. Importantly, these reactions do not require the ingestion of pork, they are even observed when Muslims see pork or pigs. In more severe forms of porkophobia, the mere image of a pig on TV or the realization that one has touched (not snacked on!) pig skin leather elicits similar reactions of revulsion. This severe form of porkophobia is not restricted to Muslims growing up in pig-free Muslim countries, but is also found amongst Muslims living in countries where pork is commonly eaten and pigs are used as important farm animals.


It is remarkable how a whole culture of disgust evolved from a straightforward dietary law. When I have addressed this issue with fellow Muslims, they suggest that instilling porkophobia into the subconscious minds of Muslims prevents them from even considering the ingestion of pork. I have to agree that this strategy is very efficacious. I have virtually never seen anybody who refers to himself or herself as a Muslim ever eat pork. But what is most puzzling, however, is that this simple dietary law has lead to a whole culture of disgust, whereas other Islamic laws and Qur'anic prescriptions have not. One is much more likely to encounter a Muslim who drinks alcohol, commits adultery or collects interest on his loans than one who eats a bacon sandwich. While some argue that the prohibition of alcohol is more vague in Islam than the prohibition on pork, there is no doubt that Islam is very clear on prohibiting adultery and exploiting poverty-stricken people by charging interest on loans.

Why have other Islamic prescriptions and prohibitions not lead to a culture of disgust? Avoidance of pork has fairly minor sociopolitical relevance, it is not part of the five pillars of Muslim faith and it has never been a central message of Islam. In short, it is not a defining characteristic of Islam. The phenomenon of porkophobia has given a dietary law such a high level of importance that if a believing, kind-hearted generous Muslim were ever observed to be eating pork in public, he or she would be ostracized by the Muslim community. In contrast, contemporary Muslims have not developed a similar culture of revulsion when they see the un-Islamic practice of exploitation. Many Muslims would have no problems watching a movie with Michael Douglas acting as an aggressive CEO whose actions can have disastrous effects on the lives of his employees, while they might indeed have a problem if they saw Michael Douglas eating five strips of bacon in that same movie.

One answer to this puzzle is that porkophobia allows Muslims to maintain their identity especially when living as a minority in a predominantly non-Muslim culture with a straightforward criterion: Do you eat pork or not? The avoidance of pork is not that difficult. Even in Southern Germany, which is the heartland of pork sausages, one can easily avoid eating pork without disrupting one's life or social relations. Therefore, the avoidance of pork does not have many untoward social or economic consequences for Muslims but it still allows them to feel a connection to their perceived religious identity.

On the other hand, “exploitophobia” would cause major problems for Muslims. Much of the modern economy is built on exploiting workers and charging excessive interest rates. If the thought of how Islam prohibits the charging of interest on loans or the exploitation of fellow humans were to lead to a culture of disgust, Muslims would have a hard time working in most parts of the modern economy. Thus, it is more convenient to allow the pork-prohibition to become a faux- principle of faith.

  • Written by a Muslim
  • Image source: Angry Dog Designs
  • A worthwhile read that pertains to Old Testament dietary laws is Acts 10 (Christian New Testament)
  • I'm sympathetic to any who eschew certain foods! (But just so you know - I do eat pork!)
  • Image below is for my middle son who loves bacon!

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend from Jordan who is Christian and is a "porkaphobe" - he grew up in a culture where pork was seen as gross, so even though he has no religious reason not to eat it, he still has no desire to.

    Also, pork (especially the bacon shown above) is unhealthy, so maybe we should all develop an aversion to pork... and hamburgers!


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