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Eating Z Pod

A podcast produced by two Muslim American journalists that highlights what it means to be a Muslim in an ever evolving society, Eating Z specifically explores what Zabihah eating is, the differences between Zabihah and Halal, and how food fits into Muslim-American culture. Podcast host Hira Qureshi describes what prompted her to pursue her passion for audio storytelling through her launch of Eating Z and how she hopes this podcast can help combat many of the stereotypes people have about Muslims and Islam.

Interviewed by Mariam Khayata

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

     My name is Hira Qureshi and my partner in crime is Dima Amro. I am the host and chief executive producer of the Eating Z podcast, and Dima is the story editor and executive producer. We both attend the University of Memphis and are pursuing a BA in Journalism. Our passions are similar in a way. I’d say we’re both super passionate about journalism and storytelling in all forms. We both hope to provide a voice for those not represented in the media, especially Muslims. In terms of future career goals - I think for me it’s to work in journalism in some capacity whether it’s with podcast or in a newsroom and ultimately change the narrative for Muslim-Americans and immigrant Americans to become a more raw and honest represantion that matches reality. I am an avid podcast listener, that’s how I got interested in the audio storytelling sphere. Some of my all time favorite podcasts include Modern Love, Radiolab, The Daily and, of course, Serial. They are incredibly well produced and have compelling reporting and storytelling. I would highly recommend them to any and everyone. 

What is the Eating Z Pod? What prompted you to create it? What is the story behind it? What do you hope to accomplish by releasing these podcast episodes? 

     Eating Z is a podcast that explores the Muslim community - its food, its lifestyle, and its people. It specifically explores what Zabiha eating is, the different definitions of Zabiha and Halal, and how food fits into Muslim-American culture. This podcast started partly because I am a self-pronounced foodie but mainly because it was a way for me to explore audio storytelling and build on my own audio editing skills - which, by the way, is my favorite thing to do. So the idea was that a podcast that talked about what Muslim-American culture is over food would not only interest Muslims but also engage non-Muslims - because everybody loves food, right? Food has always been a great bridge builder for any conversation so I thought it would be a perfect way to engage all audiences - and I would get to eat all kinds of food. With the pod, Inshallah, I hope to first of all further develop my audio skills and learn from everything I do. Secondly, I hope it opens up a path for conversations about what the Muslim-American culture is and how it’s different for everyone because it really hasn’t been defined. I also hope it combats the perception that all Muslims are the same, because we’re not. We come in all shapes and forms. And finally, I hope it encourages other Muslims to tell their stories and become storytellers in whatever way they can because we need to be telling our stories and not having others write them for us. 

You make an effort to define aspects of Muslim traditions and practices in all of your episodes. For non-Muslim listeners, do you view your podcast as an avenue for education or a way to bridge the ignorance that nonMuslims may have in regards to Islam? 

     Absolutely, I think podcasts, no matter what the content is, engage people in a way that has a lasting impact. When you work with audio, you have to think visually. You have to think about how you can place an image, tell a story in the listeners’ head with just sound. And with Eating Z, we discuss topics from hijab to struggling with prayer to having crazy cravings during Ramadan while chowing down on some good food. A simple and natural image of reality - Muslims eating (a lot) while talking about the topics we discuss in our day to day lives, just trying to understand what being Muslim-American means to each of us. And with this image, I believe it provides an avenue for education and a way to bridge ignorance about Islam. 

What does it mean for you to eat Zabiha? Do you perceive it as something to be proud of? Do you find it difficult to be a strictly Z eater?

Eating zabiha is something I’ve always known. I grew up “eating z” and haven’t eaten any other way. For me, it means staying true to my parents’ teachings and practices. It means staying connected to my Iman. I am proud to be a “z eater” because I know I am staying true to who I am despite it being different from social norms. I’ll be honest. At times, it is really hard. Like I mentioned, I am a self-pronounced foodie so wanting to eat certain foods and try new things does make it hard since not everything in the U.S. is zabiha. But again, this is something I have stayed true to and I will continue to despite my foodie desires. 

What are your future hopes for the Eating Z podcast? Where do you see the podcast going in the next coming years?

Inshallah, my future hopes for Eating Z is for the pod to gain more listeners, continue to improve quality wise, and for me to just keep learning from it. It is a passion project of mine and so I hope that I can keep pursuing it, maybe even expand it to international episodes. For now though, I think just being able to continue putting it together is my goal. We really don’t have a development budget so Dima and I do this on our own time as an extra way to develop our storytelling skills. We do hope to pitch it to a news outlet or podcast organization at some point, inshallah. But really the biggest hope is to continue creating and sharing these stories so that authentic Muslim narratives are more mainstream. 

Do you have any advice that you would like to share with readers who also want to start their own podcast / pursue their passion?

For producing a podcast, my advice would be to plan then produce. You have to define what your content will be, know your audience, plan out some structure or format, develop a marketing plan and understand audio storytelling. (There are a lot of good resources to understand audio storytelling. Here’s a book if you’re thinking about starting one.) It takes a good amount of planning and developing before you can launch. Dima and I spent about three to four months planning. So remember: plan then produce. 

For pursuing your passion, my advice is just go for it. Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your passions. I know that is easier said than done; if you can’t drop everything and pursue it, then start small. If you start small, you can build your confidence in pursuing it and then you might see it as something to pursue wholeheartedly. 


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