Melbourne, Apr.28 : An embarrassed Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been forced to apologise to Muslim delegates at this month's 2020 Summit because their religious dietary needs were ignored by caterers who could not tell the difference between halal and vegetarian food.
In the absence of halal food - prepared in accordance to Sharia dietary laws - the Islamic delegates were forced to eat "salad sandwiches and vegetarian pies," The Australian reports.
This was the Rudd Government's second major summit-related gaffe involving a religious minority after he was forced to apologise to Jewish community leaders for holding the talkfest during the Passover.
Rudd's apology to Muslim delegates follows revelations by The Australian last month that the Federal Government was considering setting up a Muslim advisory body - which would include sporting figures and academics - to help dismantle the stereotypical and overly religious image of Islam in Australia.
Prominent Muslim leader Fadi Rahman, who attended the two-day conference a fortnight ago, yesterday attacked summit organisers for failing to make halal food available for Islamic delegates.
He said the event's catering manager could not distinguish between halal food - where animals, excluding pigs, are killed under religious supervision for hygienic and humanitarian reasons - and vegetarian food.
"They just thought to themselves vegetarian will do, that's halal and that's it, eat it," he said.
"But we said, 'No, vegetarian is not halal. Vegetarian is vegetarian. Halal food is totally different, shouldn't you guys have done your homework?'
Rahman said Rudd approached him and Queensland Muslim leader Mohamad Abdalla and apologised to the pair about the glitch.
"We thought it was a nice gesture for him to apologise," said Rahman.