Pharmaceutical company Himalaya found itself at the centre of a social media storm with the #BoycottHimalayaProducts hashtag trending on the microblogging app Twitter. This came after a social media post went viral with the ‘Halal policy’ of Himalaya.
As per the company’s policy, their products comply with Islamic law/Shariah and are produced using only halal products.
After the boycott campaign on social media, Himalaya issued a statement trying to clarify its position. The company stated, “In certain countries, halal certification is mandatory. Hence the halal certification is obtained as per the respective regulations for such countries only.”
While Himalaya is forced to get this halal certification to run their business in several countries, just like many other Indian companies that manufacture FMCG products, and is not limited to the meat industry, this imposition of halal products on non-Muslims has to be resisted in the larger interest of the Indian society due to the various problems it ends up creating. Here are the main issues.
Halal is discriminatory
For a meat product to be halal, the animal must be slaughtered only by a Muslim. In order to achieve economies of scale, the meat industry ends up operating large-scale abattoirs to produce all their meat. They end up using only Muslims at these abattoirs as it has simply become cheaper to produce all their meat together, instead of running separate abattoirs for halal and non-halal meat. In such a scenario, many Hindu communities, especially some Dalits, who were traditionally butchers, miss out on employment opportunities in the sector. Considering the meat industry is worth several Billion dollars, this is a huge sector where only people from one religion are finding jobs because of halal policies.
Halal restricts other people’s choices and beliefs
Most businesses have started serving only halal meat now to save the cost of maintaining 2 supply chains, for halal and non-halal meat. People who may not be comfortable with halal meat, or for people with religions where only jhatka meat is allowed, no longer have any choice in the matter. If they are ordering meat at a restaurant, they get halal only by default.
Halal’s widening scope creating a parallel economy
As we can see with the case of Himalaya, halal economy is not just restricted to meat products now. Pharmaceutical products, personal care products, cosmetics, and even flour, all come with halal certification now. With its ever-growing scope, it is creating the grounds for restricting the job prospects in these sectors to people from only one religion. Further, this parallel system of certification runs without any checks and balances from the government.
Questionable activities run by Halal certifying authorities
An organization like Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), one of the oldest halal certifying trusts in India, is constantly in the news for their legal support to the accused in terror-related cases. Even in murder cases, like in the case of Kamlesh Tiwari, bomb blasts and terror funding cases, the organization extended legal support to the accused. A large part of these funds, come from the fees they charge for halal certification. So unknowingly, everyone in India ends up finding the legal fees of terrorists and criminals by consuming halal products even though there is no religious requirement for them to do so.
Imposition of one’s religious beliefs over all communities is ‘non-secular’
While we keep going on about the word secular in our constitution, imposing one religion’s beliefs on everyone can hardly be called secular. Indirectly, with businesses shifting to halal only products to cut their costs, this belief to consume only halal products has been imposed on everyone. The businesses have to be asked by the consumers to make it clear if they use only halal products or not so that as consumers, we can make an informed decision. People who want to consume halal products can continue to do so, but the rest of the people need to know if they are subtly being forced towards it or not.