Be wary of ‘halal’ food made by others, Utusan columnist tells Muslims

File picture shows Muslim women opting for halal makeup to combine their religious obligations with their beauty routine. — Picture by Choo Choy May
File picture shows Muslim women opting for halal makeup to combine their religious obligations with their beauty routine. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Muslims should not buy food claimed to be halal or permissible under Islam from businesses operated by Chinese and Indians, an Utusan Malaysia columnist wrote today, arguing that discriminating on grounds of hygiene is not racist.

The columnist, Azman Anuar, cited a friend saying that Muslims should be reminded to buy from Muslim-owned companies that were halal and clean, rather than buy from companies owned by infidels.

“Are Muslims racist if (they) question halal products produced by Chinese companies? They (the Chinese) have long used Malay brands and Islam to make their products popular,” the senior editor of Utusan’s features section said.

He observed that the halal logo on food products was widespread throughout the country and Muslims often buy such products.

But the halal status of a product does not only depend on whether it contains “pork or pig DNA”, but also takes into account hygiene issues, Azman said, advocating caution among Muslim consumers.

He claimed that most of the factories producing fishballs, fishcakes and tofu are owned by the Chinese, with few Malays and Indians producing such products.

“Is the level of hygiene guaranteed?”

Azman claimed that Chinese farmers and suppliers control the whole supply of chicken in Malaysia, with the public forced to accept rising prices.

“We as Muslims, should start doubting chicken suppliers that are controlled by Chinese businessmen, especially in small cities. They say that the chicken was slaughtered by Muslims. Should we trust them completely?” he asked.

He also advised Muslims to cut down on purchases of frozen meat from India or to avoid going to restaurants that use the meat, arguing that the halal status of the meat is not guaranteed.

“The ones that slaughter the buffaloes are Indian Muslims, but don’t we need to doubt the halal standards at the slaughtering centre in India? Not all the workers there are Muslim, and Jakim only comes to check once a year or when there are complaints on the halal standards,” he said.

Additionally, Chinese traders control the import of such frozen meat from India, he said.

Although sales of locally-produced beef was lacklustre as it is more expensive, Azman pointed out that such meat was usually freshly slaughtered or less than two days old, comparing it to frozen meat from India that could be two months old.

“Therefore, why don’t we support the selling of local meat from Muslims in the markets? If the Muslims don’t help Muslim traders, who else will help them?”

“Is it racist for us to champion the halal issue for the wellbeing of Muslims in Malaysia?” he asked.

“If we and food sellers are not alert, a lot of non-halal food will enter the bodies of Muslims until it erodes the faith and spirit of Islam. Therefore, it is not wrong if we start looking for those that are ‘confirmed halal’ and done by Muslims,” he concluded.

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