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As video of Halal certified tea bags served in a train goes viral, here is why even vegetarian products are forced to get Halal certification

Although outwardly Halal slaughter and Halal certification for non-animal products are different, fundamentally, the certification process for both are the same and are intended to achieve the same objectives.

A video of a heated exchange between an official of the Indian railways and a passenger angry after being served halal-certified tea has gone viral. The passenger in the video questioned the railway staff as to what halal-certified tea is and why it was being served during the month of Sawan.

In the undated video, the passenger is heard saying that he is a devout Hindu and that consuming anything with a halal certification hurts his religious sentiments. “Sawan ka mahina chal raha hai, aap halal chai pila rahe hain. Ye kya likha hua hai? Halal certified. Kya cheez hai ye?” the man said.

To this, the railway official is heard telling the passenger that it is a packet of masala chai premix as he points out that the ingredients in the packet are completely vegetarian.

The incident reportedly occurred on the Vande Bharat Express, where the passenger was served the premix tea from the brand ‘Chaizup.’ The passenger was confused and concerned since the tea premix had a “halal certification” even though it was advertised as “100% vegetarian,” especially since it was the Hindu holy month of Shravan.

After the video went viral, IRCTC tweeted a clarification explaining why such products, despite being 100% vegetarian mandatorily need to carry halal certification. “Your concerns are appreciated. The mentioned brand premix tea has the mandatory FSSAI Certification. The product is 100% vegetarian with mandatory “Green Dot” indication. Further, as per the manufacturer, the product is also exported to other Countries which mandates “Halal certification” for such products,” read the tweet.

A fierce debate on social media about food certification and its religious connotations was ignited by video of the exchange. Many people are confused as to how tea premix could be certified as Halal or why is that even necessary. 

In previous articles we have explained how the Halal meat industry practises discrimination against non-Muslims and eventually cuts off non-Muslims from jobs and employment, just to maintain the religious requirements of the Halal process.

Many companies, Islamists, and Halal proponents have clarified that the Halal certificate is also there for non-meat products like vegetarian food items, cosmetics and other FMCG goods. There have been claims from some elements that Halal certification is just a certification for ‘purity and authenticity’, and a Halal certification (on non-meat products) does simply imply that the product is ‘good’.

While it is understandable that Halal slaughter has over the years 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.

Halal certification is purely religious, even in non-meat products because it considers whether the said products contain any ingredients that are prohibited in Islam. The very idea is discriminatory in itself because the basis of the certification here is a religious belief, whether a certain ingredient is ‘allowed’ in the Islamic faith or not.

So the question here is, why do we need a Halal certificate anyway? And more importantly, what is the justification behind the certification apart from religious belief?

Why even vegetarian products are forced to get Halal certification

Halal India, the certification authority, 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 and milk of animals Muslims are not permitted to drink and other such things are considered ‘Najis’.

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 make 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 employ people who belong to the Muslim community. Essentially, Halal certification is no longer about choice but about making others pay for 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 for 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.

So when acquiring a Halal certificate is not mandatory then why even in countries where Muslims are a micro-minority, business establishments 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.

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OpIndia Staff
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