Co-President Gan Ping Sieu on the Halal Certification Controversy
Friday, December 30, 2016
The Islamic Affairs Department (Jakim) should not penalise halal-certified eateries that allow diners who bring in non-halal certified food into their premises. Rightfully, Jakim's halal certification applies only to food served in F&B outlets. There is no such thing as halal or non-halal pemises.

While eateries have the right to ban patrons from bringing in outside food, the decision should be based on commercial considerations and not whether the food is halal-certified or not. In this respect, Jakim should not overstep its boundary by accrediting "premises" instead of "food". It should also not subject food operators to white terror. Doing so would be an abuse of power.

Otherwise, it will open the floodgates for more areas to be classified along halal-non halal lines such as public transportation, schools, housing areas and healthcare. This will only segregate the people along religious lines, especially at a time when there is a need to enhance unity in the face of rising extremism.

CENBET holds dear to the principle of respecting each other's religious beliefs as a way to stem the tide of bigotry and religious fundamentalism. There is no question about respecting Muslim's dietary requirements. But we should not allow radical elements to hijack any religions for political ends.

We are especially troubled that a fundamental tenet of Islam - the principle of halal - has become a divisive national discourse over the past few months. Earlier on, a fast food outlet had to replace the word "hotdog" from its menu to qualify for Jakim's halal certification. There was also controversy over Risda's (Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority) plan to have its own halal logo for Muslim products.

It is time those in power to step up to the plate and display political will and not fall into the temptation of political pandering at the expense of dividing the people further.
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