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Halal certification of vegetarian products: It’s no longer about choice, but making others pay for your beliefs

While it is understandable that Halal slaughter generated the most revulsion from people, Halal certification for non-animal products should not be ignored either. Although outwardly different, fundamentally, the certification process for both are the same and are intended to achieve the same objectives.

The Halal Debate was once again reignited when a person on social media discovered that the packet of Maida (Flour) she had purchased had halal certification. The image posted as evidence showed that the certification authority was Halal India.

Many people are confused as to how Flour could be certified as Halal or why is that even necessary. According to Islamic law, vegetarian food is halal by default. However, they could contain non-Halal ingredients that would make them Haram. The same is the case with flour. Processed flour could contain additives that would make it non-Halal. Therefore, certification is necessary to certify that the flour is indeed Halal.

The website ‘aMuslima‘ explains, “Inexpensive L-cysteine mostly available in the market is L-cysteine made from human hair, especially those coming from China. Of course, because it is derived from the human body then L-cysteine is forbidden. So that, flour uses L-cysteine from human hair is haram (prohibited) for Muslims. However, in addition to L-cysteine made from human hair, it can also be obtained from poultry feathers. As we know a lot of hair and feathers contain L-cysteine. L-cysteine from poultry feather is still questionable of its halal-ness. If it was obtained at the time when the animal was still alive, it is prohibited. If it was taken when the animal was dead, it is questionable whether it was slaughtered based on Islam? Fortunately, now there are L-cysteine produced by fermentation and may be used, but the price is more expensive. Thus, actually, flour on the market is not necessary haram, although using L-cysteine, depending on which L-cysteine derived. If we find flour with no halal logo on the pack, then we have to avoid it.”

Read: What is Halal meat? Only Muslims allowed from slaughter to labelling must chant Bismillah Allahu Akbar or meat becomes ‘non-Halal’

Halal India, the certification authority in this particular instance, states that processed food is considered halal if it is not contaminated by ingredients that are considered ‘najis’ as per Sharia Law. Furthermore, the equipment used for its production should not be contaminated with ‘najis’ either. ‘Najis’, as per Sharia law, are substances that make a product ritually unclean. Substances such as alcohol, dogs, swine, milk of animals Muslims are not permitted to drink and other such things are considered ‘Najis’.

Thus, there is one marked difference between Halal slaughter and certification for products that do not contain animal products. Halal slaughter can only be performed by a Muslim man. Thus, non-Muslims are automatically denied employment at a Halal firm. There are certain other conditions that must be fulfilled that makes it quite clear that it is intrinsically an Islamic practice. Guidelines available at the official websites of certification authorities make it abundantly clear that non-Muslim employees cannot be engaged in any part of the slaughtering process.

However, in the case of products that do not necessarily contain animal products, non-Muslims can be employed for the preparation of the product. However, the certification authorities still only employ Muslims. Therefore, Halal certification is a business operation that makes money off even non-animal products by monopolizing the certification process. In short, for every product that is sold, a certain amount of the revenue must be handed over to these certification authorities that always employs people who belong to the Muslim community. Essentially, Halal certification is no longer about choice but making others pay for the Islamic beliefs.

It is also important to remember that the Government of India does not mandate Halal certification, it only has its FSSAI certification. Thus, halal certification bodies are a way of Islamic fundamentalists to push themselves into business operations, thereby ensuring that the Muslim community always has a monopoly over a share of the revenue and it is a business model that only employs Muslims.

As can be seen across the world, Halal certification is all the rage. Even in countries where Muslims are a micro-minority, businesses work overtime to ensure that their products are halal certified. This phenomenon is explained quite eloquently by the rather eccentric but brilliant scholar, Nassim Nicolas Taleb, through the concept of ‘The Most Intolerant Wins‘. He asserted that if there is a section of the population, albeit a minority, who will not consume something at any cost owing to their belief system but the larger majority simply doesn’t care enough, then businesses will only be overeager to accommodate the ‘intolerance’ of the minority population.

Thus, if there’s a minority population (say, A) that will only consume Halal products (say, H) and there’s a majority community (say, B) that’s not motivated enough to care either way, then H will become the norm in the market, as it has become, as B will consume H but A will not consume anything but H. H is the lowest common denominator and theoretically, businesses profit more only by appealing to the lowest common denominator. It is pertinent to mention here that this proposition holds true only where secular values have become the norm. This won’t hold true in Islamic societies or Israel.

The overwhelming prevalence of Halal products ought to concern us as a country. Recently, OpIndia.com interviewed Ravi Ranjan Singh, the chairman of Jhatka Certification Authority, amidst the raging debate over halal and jhatka meat. One of the most objectionable conditions that accompany halal, according to Singh, is “no employment or financial benefit granted to a Kafir (non-Muslim)”.

Read: Halalonomics is a deeper conspiracy than it seems: OpIndia talks to Ravi Ranjan Singh, Chairman of Jhatka Certification Authority

Singh made several claims during the interview that should give every Indian cause for worry. He said that a certain part of the profit made by halal products goes towards financing jihad. “When I’m buying halal-certified products, I’m directly funding my own death. Any halal-certified product-chips, chocolate, meat, purchased by me is financing my death. Even vegetarian products are halal certified. It has no relation with the meat but a part of it goes into supporting jihad,” Singh said.

According to Singh, halal supporters claim that the amount earmarked for jihad is basically zakat that goes into religious charity. However, there is no mechanism to check how this religious charity is used by Islamic institutions, contends Singh. “This jihad is nothing but a fight against the non-believers until they embrace Islam. This is not halal, this is halalonomics aimed at converting non-Muslims into Muslims,” Singh claimed.

While it is understandable that Halal slaughter generated the most revulsion from people, Halal certification for non-animal products should not be ignored either. Although outwardly different, fundamentally, the certification process for both are the same and are intended to achieve the same objectives.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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