18 Jun 2024

Reclaiming the Fried Chicken Shop

Reclaiming the Fried Chicken Shop


Zahra is an Indian Iranian creative who loves learning. Her particular areas of interest are culture & identity. Outside of researching, writing and collating stories together, she’s an avid reader and traveller.

Reclaiming the Fried Chicken Shop

If you look in areas populated with a large Muslim population, chicken shops are not far behind.

With an influx of immigration came the birth of the halal fried chicken shop.

The streets of London and the East Midlands have become populated with chicken shops. From an outside perspective, they offer nothing more than greasy competitively-priced chicken.

However, they have become an anchor for an untethered community looking for a place to call their own.

This isn’t pertinent to the Muslim community alone, as Chinese takeaways also became a space of comfort for first and second-generation Eastern Asians.

I’m sure I’m not alone in the memories I have of being raised in my Baba’s takeaway, with the staff becoming an extended family and the smell of freshly baked pizza dough being oddly comforting.

Whilst this takeover has been happening in England for quite some time, the chicken shop is on the rise in other European countries.

In the city of Kassal, Germany, the increasing number of chicken shops The seeming increase in the number of halal fried-chicken shops over the summer has caused a stir among locals and tourists alike.

This is what caused Hamja Ahsan to create a conceptual art project depicting the humble chicken shop.

Fourteen colourfully designed LED signs jut out from eight venues, including the 18th-century Fridericianum Museum and the Museum fur Sepulkralkultur, a museum focused on death.

One reads “Kaliphate Fried Chicken ‐ Feeding The Ummah Since 1924”, while another reads “Mmmoors ‐ Moorish Fried Chicken!”.

The tongue-in-cheek signs play on popular fried-chicken shop names.

Born in London in 1981 to parents of Bangladeshi origins and raised in the district of Tooting, Ahsan has established a reputation for using satire and alternative realities to address societal issues.

“I wanted to be ironic, to create space for the rising phenomena of the chicken shop and what it now symbolises. Many see the rise of chicken shops, especially in the UK but also in other western European countries, as the rise of Islamification.
“But what these places actually offer are spaces that are beyond borders, beyond nation states, beyond ethnicities and beyond languages. Fried chicken has the power to do that.”
“There’s a deep sense of identity found in chicken shops. It’s a place where people can integrate and assimilate.
“It’d be the only place open at 1am that would welcome you. Muslims have seen it as a safe space, as the food is halal, there’s no alcohol and the people running the shop are usually Muslim too, so it builds a sort of allegiance.
“People have had political debates here, discussed deep issues, white people have even converted to Islam and taken the shahada [Islamic declaration of faith] in a fried chicken shop” [i].

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