Zomato Can Guarantee Halal Meat, But it Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Guarantee the Religion of its Delivery Execs

POV

Zomato Can Guarantee Halal Meat, But it Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Guarantee the Religion of its Delivery Execs

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

I

ndia is a tolerant nation. We are proud of how we embody the principle of unity in diversity. Our national pledge, something most people recite regularly in school, contains the words, “I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.” But in 2019, this celebration of differences no longer extends to food – rather, who we will accept it from. On Wednesday, a Twitter user with the handle NaMo_SARKAAR complained about how he had to cancel a food delivery from Zomato, because the rider bringing him his parcel was “non hindu (sic)”. There are many reasons to reject food – it could be too spicy, too hot, taking too long, not what you ordered, or not upto the mark – but rejecting it on the basis of the delivery boy’s faith is probably the worst reason.

Thankfully, Zomato issued the right response to this easily offended Twitter user, informing him that “Food has no religion.” Zomato co-founder Deepinder Goyal also weighed in, saying the company was not sorry to lose any business that came in the way of their values. Zomato was lauded on social media for standing up for diversity and tolerance, while NaMo_SARKAAR announced he was pursuing legal options, before scrubbing his Twitter timeline of all the tweets.

In a perfect world, the tale would end here and everyone would live happily ever after, except for the Twitter troll who would crawl back into whatever online cave he came from. Sadly, this was not the case, as another Twitter user posted a comparison of how Zomato handled NaMo_SARKAAR’s bigoted and hateful complaint, and how they responded to a Muslim user named Wajid who could not accept his order since the food was not halal. That was enough, and soon there was a wave of people accusing Zomato of being partial to Muslims and unfair to Hindus, with #BoycottZomato trending because there’s nothing Indians love more than a good boycott.

The difference between the two cases is so stark it should be easily evident to anybody – but apparently it isn’t, because the comparison tweet received over 8,000 likes and over 5,000 retweets. So just in case you’re reading this and somehow believe that Zomato is a bunch of hypocrites, allow me to explain. Ensuring food is prepared according to your order – and that includes your religious beliefs – is Zomato’s responsibility. Ensuring the delivery driver’s religion meets up with your backward-ass criteria for whom you will accept food from is not their responsibility. Get it? Got it? Good.

If the art of whataboutery became an Olympic sport, the people using the halal argument to criticise Zomato would be India’s gold medal winners.

A practising Muslim eats only halal meat, so it makes sense that Zomato would have tags denoting which restaurants serve it. As far as I know, there is no rule in any religion which forbids you from accepting food from a member of another faith, which is why Zomato does not have tags telling users whether the delivery guy is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or a Scientologist. The problem faced by NaMo_SARKAAR was really of his own making, where he invented a rule about not accepting food from a “non Hindu” during the holy month of Shravan to suit his narrow-minded worldview. (Some would say, even eating take-out food is antithetical to the spirit of abstinence that defines Shravan.) If the art of whataboutery became an Olympic sport, the people using the halal argument to criticise Zomato would be India’s gold medal winners.

Being intolerant of other religions is vastly different from simply wanting your food prepared a certain way. In fact, the right-wingers who are upset with Zomato should instead take offence at NaMo_SARKAAR’s implication that observing Shravan turns you into a xenophobe who cannot interact with other faiths. But logic is in short supply, especially on right-wing Twitter. Anyone who supports Zomato and their message of tolerance is going to come under fire. UberEats, which backed its competitor with a simple “.@ZomatoIN we stand by you” tweet came under fire from the boycott brigade with #BoycottUberEats trending No 1 on Twitter in India. Unfortunately for outraged right-wingers, the joke’s on them, considering how they’ve brought their options down to Swiggy.

Given how short-lived this sort of controversy normally is, I doubt either Zomato or UberEats should be worried about a long-term boycott affecting their bottom lines. The good press and online hate will both subside soon enough, and the world will return to normal. But only until NaMo_SARKAAR places his next order.

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