A lot has been said on the matter of Halal certification lately. Following the arrest of the owner of Jain Bakeries in Chennai over an alleged advertisement that declared that no Muslims were hired at the bakery, demands have been growing on social media to boycott halal products.
Mili Gazette, an Islamic media portal, jumped on to the scene to claim that such demands were an expression of ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘bigotry’. However, such condemnations haven’t had any effect on the intensity of the demands and the cries have continued to grow stronger.
There are multiple issues that need to be addressed here. Is it bigotry to call for a boycott of halal products? Are such calls an expression of Islamophobia? Was the Chennai Police justified in arresting the owner of Jain Bakeries? Was there anything illegal or unconstitutional about the alleged advertisement? Is it morally wrong or unethical to call for a boycott of halal certification? These are the questions that must be addressed as the calls grow louder.
First and foremost, as we have said many times before, Halal certification is discrimination on an unprecedented scale. It creates a monopoly for Muslims in the meat industry. When Muslims insist on the consumption of meat from an establishment that has Halal certification, they are ensuring that the establishment procures its meat from a source that has only Muslim employees because Halal meat can only be produced by their fellow coreligionists. Halal is not a mere dietary preference, it is a way of ensuring employment to people from the same community.
Only animals that are slaughtered in accordance with Islamic rules can be considered Halal and it includes an Islamic prayer that is to be uttered by a Muslim before the slaughter. Any slaughter performed by a non-Muslim cannot be Halal by definition. Thus, attempts to project it as a dietary preference are either malicious or misguided and it is to see how Halal certification would create a monopoly for Muslims in the meat industry. It is not a side-effect but by design.
The case is slightly different for the Halal certification of non-meat products but the basic principle is the same. For the certification, an establishment has to pay a certain amount to an Islamic certification authority to get the Halal certification. Thus, if a business institution seeks to do business with Muslims, then they first have to pay a ‘hafta’ to the ‘thekedaars’ of the Muslim community. Of course, the costs of obtaining such a certificate would be mitigated by the revenues earned from the customers which would include both Muslims and non-Muslims. Thus, non-Muslims would be subsidising the livelihoods of the ‘thekedaars’ of the Muslim community.
Given these conditions, it is easy to understand why non-Muslims will not be satisfied with such an arrangement. Non-Muslims are under no obligation to pay for the religious beliefs of the Muslim community. And since Halal certification is essentially an economic activity, the retaliation will also be in the economic domain. Thus, at least three of our questions have been answered. No, it is not bigotry to call for the boycott of Halal products and it is certainly not ‘Islamophobia’. Most definitely, boycotting Halal products is not unethical. On the contrary, it is the moral duty of every concerned citizen to raise their voice against discrimination in all its forms.
Now, we move to the other two questions which concern the constitutionality of advertisements proclaiming the absence of Muslim staff in business establishments and the arrest made by the Chennai Police regarding the same. First and foremost, insisting on Halal meat is a form of economic boycott. Muslim consumers are effectively providing business establishments with incentives to hire only Muslims in the meat industry. The Meat industry, as it is, is likely to be more inclined towards procuring Halal meat as the majority of consumers will not be bothered by the consumption of Halal meat but a Muslim will never eat non-Halal meat. Thus, by procuring Halal meat, the potential customer base of the business establishment remains larger. This is what Nasim Nicolas Taleb calls the dictatorship of the minority.
Thus, the Business industry is inclined to procure more Halal meat due to the insistence of the Muslim community on the consumption of the same. This, in turn, gives the Muslim community a virtual monopoly in employment in the meat industry by discriminating heavily against non-Muslims. The Constitution of the country is perfectly alright with all of this, as dangerous as this is. No arrests have ever been made by the Police despite the fact that Halal certification on meat products also carries the implicit declaration that no non-Muslim was hired for the purpose of the making of the product. Therefore, if business establishments can make such proud declarations of denying employment to non-Muslims without any fear of legal consequence and with the express consent of the Constitution, then why should any action be taken against a non-Muslim for declaring that no Muslim was hired in a particular business establishment?
If Halal certification is legal, then business establishments also have the right to deny Muslims employment on the basis of their religion. If the Muslim community can encourage the employment of Muslims in the meat industry, which the insistence on Halal meat essentially does, then non-Muslims too have the right to encourage business establishments to hire people from their specific religion. For instance, if a Hindu decides to not accept deliveries from a Muslim delivery person on Zomato or Amazon or any e-commerce service, then it is their right as a customer to do so. If Halal is legal and constitutional, so is this.
Non-Muslims can also act on other fronts as well if they so choose. If they wish to buy groceries and vegetable from only vendors from their own particular religion, then it is their right to do so. If Halal is legal and constitutional, then so is this and there’s nothing wrong with it at all, either legally or morally. As long as the retaliation against the discriminatory practice of Halal is limited to the economic domain itself, then it is completely justified. Equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the principles of equality dictate that every citizen ought to be equal before the law. However, the Police sometimes tend to forget that. The arrest of the owner of Jain Bakeries and the legal action against the Hindu vendor in Jharkhand is testament to that effect.
It is also pertinent to mention that on both these occasions, the Police acted after certain Muslims took offence on social media. The Muslim community must realise that they cannot eat their cake and have it too. If they discriminate actively against non-Muslims on the economic front, then the other side also reserves the right to retaliate in equal measure. It’s not Islamophobia, it is the law of nature itself. The Muslim community must also realise that non-Muslims are not obliged to subsidise their religious beliefs. And they must stop expecting the same.
Unfortunately, certain sections of the Muslim community have made it a habit of crying victim even as they engage in predatory behaviour. Indian law enforcement agencies must not entertain the misguided sense of entitlement that such elements have developed over the years. They can, of course, choose to do so but it will only create further bad blood between communities. If, however, they permit things to be taken to their logical conclusion, then there is at least some hope that the Muslim community will realise the folly of their ways and give up the discriminatory practices they observe, or they will be forced to due to the economic repercussions of the same. And all things considered, this is the best thing that could happen for the country as a whole.