A raging controversy about Halal vs Jhatka meat erupted in India when the famous food-chain McDonald’s pronounced that it only served halal meat to its customers. Following this declaration, questions were raised for its total disregard of the customers wanting to have ‘jhatka’ meat. Now, another controversy seems to be in the offing as ‘Halal India’, the halal certification body in India refused to certify Patanjali products stating that animal urine is proscribed from being granted halal status and some of the Patanjali products have cow urine as one of their ingredients.
Halal is not limited only to the meat industry, even vegetarian products apply for halal certification. A vegetarian food item with ‘halal’ stamped on it means that the product is ‘halal certified’ and it contains no ingredients forbidden for Muslims by Shariat law. It is mandatory for all products to be halal certified, both meat food items and vegetarian food for their sale in International markets, predominantly Muslim countries.
In this regard, OpIndia spoke to the officials of Halal India. Regarding the question about the recent debate where a lady residing in Australia found the halal stamp on a packet of refined wheat flour, the official advocated the halal mark on the packet saying that ‘Halal’ means ‘Permissible’, that is, something which is ‘allowed to be consumed’. He further added that people have a misconception that halal is only related to the manner in which an animal is slaughtered. He said that only those products who don’t affect the health of a human being are given ‘Halal Certificate’. That is those things which do not harm the human body by their consumption.
However, the question here is, who decides that? Whether it is decided according to Ayurvedic rules or whether it is evaluated on a scientific basis, which item should be ‘halal certified’ or not or whether the body will be harmed by its consumption. While defending his organization, the official of Halal India said made a stunning revelation that all these things are decided pursuant to the Islamic law. He made it explicit that ‘halal’ is an Arabic word, so it should be clear that things here are decided based on the rules of ‘Sharia law’. That is, the Islamic Sharia law determines which food items are harmful to the body and which are not.
The official of ‘Halal India’ cited the example of ‘Haldiram’ to further enunciate his point. Talking about the products of ‘Haldiram’ company, he claimed that the company makes around 600 products but people are not aware of all of its products. He said that all the products of ‘Haldiram’ are recognized by ‘Halal India’.
Haldiram uses potatoes to make chips. Potato is grown in the fields, from there it goes to the factory and all kinds of other ingredients are mixed into it and chips are manufactured. The Halal India official was then asked to explain the role of Halal India in granting halal certification to Haldiram chips.
The official of ‘Halal India’ replied saying that ‘colour ingredients’ are also added to such chips products, that give them a special colour. These ‘colour ingredients’ can be synthetic or may have been brought from a place which is not considered correct according to the rules of ‘halal’. The official stated that ‘flavouring agents’ are also added to give flavour, which again may or may not be infringing the halal rules. ‘Halal India’ believes that it is forbidden for both Hindus and Muslims to eat pork, so any product that has even the slightest quantity of pork can never be given a ‘halal certificate,” he declared.
Responding to the question on what about those people belonging to different religion who do not consider consuming pork as a taboo and have different eating habits, not necessarily in compliance with Islam, the official said that the organization believes that pork or products derived from it can be used in the manufacturing of other food products and therefore, that food items may not be granted a halal certificate. The official, while describing the process of giving the halal certificate to vegetarian foods, said that his officers visit the factories to find out where the raw materials are procured from and based on their findings, the organisation decides if the product is to be certified or not.
Speaking about the culinary preferences of the people living in North-east India, the Halal India official said that people of the North-East eat snakes, scorpions and even dogs. He asserted that ‘Halal India’ does not consider granting a halal certificate to the food items of the people of North-east states because “those people eat anything”. He said that oil extracted from pork is also used in medicines, but they too cannot be given ‘Halal’ certificate.
About the question regarding the eligibility of Ayurvedic products for recognition from Halal India authority, the official said, “Patanjali approached us to seek ‘Halal Certification’ for its products but due to the presence of some problematic ingredients in their products this certificate could not be given to Baba Ramdev’s ‘Patanjali’. Most of his products are compliant to halal but we have a strong objection over one or two products. Islamic rules say that any animal’s urine if it is in a product, cannot be given a halal certificate. Some of Patanjali’s products contain cow urine and that’s why ‘Halal India’ did not recognize them. If they process cow urine products in a separate factory, then other products can be given a halal certificate.”
In addition to this, the official of Halal India also told that even products with camel urine cannot be given a halal certificate. When asked if Halal India is only mindful of the feelings of Muslims, the official responded saying that people of Jain religion also live in India and they also have many laws and regulations regarding food and drink. He said that Jain people do not eat onion-garlic and keeping this in mind, there is a separate ‘Regulation Authority’ to certify foods. Halal India does the same for Indian Muslims, he added.
Halal India performs the entire scrutinization process under the supervision of the Sharia Board. The official informed that other international institutions also recognize the food and products recognized by Halal India in their respective countries. Halal India has signed MoU (agreements) with several countries including Singapore, Dubai and Saudi. It represents itself as an organization affiliated to the Government of India.
Though Halal India claims that it places significant importance on factors such as health, examines food products if it adversely affects human body before awarding halal certificate, his claims fall flat when asked if a product that is healthy for human beings but defies Islamic rules and regulations. On the question of if a product is not harmful, but Islamic rules and regulations do not permit it, the official said that even if the product is beneficial to one’s health, people of other religions use it, but the sanction of the halal certificate will be decided according to Islam.
Opindia also approached Patanjali. A female official working at Patanjali confirmed that it had indeed approached Halal India for securing halal certificates for its products. She mentioned that on all their products it is explicitly mentioned whether cow urine is used as one of the ingredients but still they were denied from being granted halal certificates. Opindia also spoke in detail with ‘Doctor Jhatka‘ on the issue of halal being foisted upon people. He said that the halal-certified food is Islamic halal and it is in accordance with the Islamic beliefs but is wrongly projected as universal halal. He also added that far from offering people a legitimate choice to decide between halal and jhatka meat, the government treats jhatka in a discriminating manner and even the Indian parliament offers only halal-certified meat.