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Friday, February 8, 2013
The “Halal” issue won’t go away until there is clarity! FROM BOTH CAMPS
It is now the talking point today – ACJU or the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama
Organization has the rights in Sri Lanka for issuing Halal certification
granted to it by the International Certification Organization for Halal based
in Indonesia, called the World Halal Council www.worldhalalcouncil.com
(Strangely the ACJU DOES NOT appear in the list of members!!!)
I would first request clarification if the ACJU
actually is an approved body? If so where and by whom and refer at least to a
web site please.
Halal means lawful under Shariah law and Haram
means unlawful under the same law. Muslims therefore are advised to live by Halal and refrain from Haram.
For those who do not know there are different Halal certifications. One for cattle, food processing and flavor and forgive me if
there are others. Please clarify. That is why even bottled water requires Halal!
The issue is this is a requirement of Shariah Law
that Muslims only eat or drink food that is lawful or Halal and the
certification gives them the assurance that the food conforms. So I presume
that a good Muslim would only consume food that conforms to this law. If they
do not they will then be subjected to the courts for breaking the law and face
the relevant punishments for breaking that law. So I as a non Muslim person cannot offer you a Muslim a glass of water as you do not know that it conforms to the Halal way of preparation just in case it has either come into contact with some Haram process! Think about it! Is this whole thing a little over dramatized?
That is the theory. The vast majority of the
Muslims (90%) in the world DO NOT consume food that is Halal CERTIFIED. That is
because they ASSUME that the processor, of that food will do it according to
the Shariah law and DO NOT ask for certification when a cow is slaughtered in a
village in Indonesia as they are all Muslim and they know how to do the needful
under the law.
So now in the world where food is purchased in
retail outlets Muslims are advised to purchase only food that has this stamp if
they are to comply with Shariah law. We must also be cognizant of the fact that
in Sri Lanka Muslims purchased food and lived for centuries amongst other
communities without the Halal certification as they either only ate in their
own community processed establishments assuming their preparers conformed to
the law, or they did not care.
This Halal certification is now becoming a big
issue and big business just like any other food certification stamp, such as
organic or not GM etc. These seals are given by approved bodies and it is up to
the buyer to beware to believe that just because there is this accreditation
that the food so conforms!!! I know for a fact that in most of the occasions
that people use these logos, the inspections done by the certification bodies
amounts to a hill of beans and therefore many certifications are just in name
only and many foods DO NOT conform to what is stated.
The issue in SL is that it is for religion that
this certification is a requirement and NOT for other reasons. The
certification bodies OBVIOUSLY wish to promote the value of certification for
their ends, most of it not altruistic, but to build empires, and now Halal
certification is being used to market the impression that the food is processed
by better and more hygienic methods giving a standard of quality that is
supposedly NOT in non Halal foods. It is MOST important that the buyer
understands this act of PR and marketing and make their own decision to
purchase or not.
Like in any organization that gives Certification
there are costs and profits to be made and as such there are charges for giving
the certification. I have worked in organizations that give organic
certifications, fair trade certifications, purity certifications and I know the
charges involved, testing done for accreditation, questionnaires and procedures
that need to be adopted and frequency of testing, sampling procedures for
testing processes and items and procedures used in case of falsifications,
breaking rules and non-payment of fees.
So I would appeal to the Bodu Bala Sena which is
questioning the need for Halal certification on products, firstly before asking
people NOT to purchase Halal foods, explain to people what it is, using the
services if necessary of the accrediting body to explain, then explain the
costs and say how much the product is more expensive IF AT ALL and why it is
being done. Then tell the consumer what they should do and if there is a
religious edict from their faith, advise their followers NOT to purchase such
as why! This will allay any fears amongst the Muslim community that it is a
simply an anti religious based issue which IT SHOULD NOT BE.
It is downright DISGRCEFUL of the ‘Bodu Bala Sena
people’, and I know for a fact that they are doing this, to threaten
manufacturers to REMOVE the halal certification emblem from their packaging as
otherwise they will use the media to tell the Buddhists to refrain from purchasing
products of these BRANDS. It is most INSIDOUS that it is made on Sinhala owned
companies more than on foreign multinationals. This blackmail of Sinhala
Businesses MUST STOP as it is traitorous to do so, and we know that the biggest
traitor of all of the people of Sri Lanka is behind this movement.
Further I appeal to the Muslim community to
lighten up on their ultra religious views as it is heading towards a clash with
the host religion or should I say dominant religion in Sri Lanka as the Halal issue
is a religious one. After all other communities advise their people on what to
do, and do not impose by saying if this cert is not put our people will not buy
your products etc. Read your history. Muslims were more realistic in the past,
and now they are becoming more belligerent towards their community and forcing
people to conform to certain rules. Like in all religions there are different sects,
and so it is with Muslims. Be tolerant of all Sects and allow them to lead their
lives without pontification saying that they are not Proper Muslims because they
do not follow Shariah law to the letter. It is incumbent on you to live by example
only not by threat or proselytizing, and instilling guilt and fear in others.
You have a duty to live in harmony with all people
in Sri Lanka. When you show that you want to be different, by dressing differently
or behaving differently within the community you automatically draw criticism as
a non conformist. History is a good starting point to learn from, on how to live
in harmony and prosper. The route you are taking though you may think to the contrary
IS drawing an instant human feeling of repulsion which if looked in a religious
perspective is against your religion of living in peace and harmony with others.
Remember that acts of commission and well as omission are both sins and if you are
supposed to be a servant of your God you must live by it. So by all means in your
private lives live as your law and religious teachings tell you, but when you interact
in public, it is better to be bygones with the larger communities and not look at
them like they are sinners for having beliefs different to yours. It is religious
tolerance that we ask from you, and admire the best tenets of Buddhism which is
tolerance of people, patience and efforts at removing desires from one’s being.