UP Govt Bans Halal Certification: Opens Pandora’s Box Of Controversy, Communal Debate

UP Govt Bans Halal Certification: Opens Pandora’s Box Of Controversy, Communal Debate

UP Govt Bans Halal Certification: Opens Pandora’s Box Of Controversy, Communal Debate | Freepik

The Uttar Pradesh government last week banned sale of products certified as ‘halal’ after complaints that companies issuing the labels were using forged documents for the process. 

Halal means food products adhere to hygiene and animal welfare

Halal in Arabic means ‘permissible’ and according to experts in Islamic food laws, the tag means that food products adhere to religious rules on hygiene and animal welfare.

The laws largely relate to the use of food and other products that have ingredients of animal origin. Halal certification is big business, especially since Muslims, the main users of Halal products, are estimated at 1.8 billion, nearly a quarter of the world population. Certifying agencies estimate that the worldwide Halal trade is worth nearly $3.5 trillion. 

FIR that led to the Halal ban

The ban on Halal in Uttar Pradesh was the result of complaint filed in a Lucknow police station alleging that certifying agencies were using forged documents to earn profits in the certification process. Four companies have been named in the First Information Report (FIR), at least one of which has said that it will take legal action against the ‘misinformation’ in the complaint.

Muslims think ban is discriminatory

According to Muslim groups, the ban is discriminatory in a country with diverse food cultures. Mufti Habib Patel of the Halal Council of India, one of the groups named in the FIR, said that the Halal tag is like messages on packages that indicate where the food is ‘eggless’ or ‘vegetarian’. “Everybody has food choices and freedom. Halal means hygienic and it means that the food has been prepared with considerations made for animal welfare,” said Patel. The Halal Council of India said that it is a group of experts that advises companies on Islamic food laws.

 Mansoor Khan, president of the Sufi Islamic Board, said, “Every community has the right to right what it wants. The ban opens a Pandora’s box because every religion has certain laws about what is halal and what is haram. It is not just the Muslims who have such rules.”  

 In India, a range of organisations provide the certification, many of which are members of the World Halal Food Council. Jamat-e-Ulama-I-Hind Halal Trust, also named in the FIR, said that its certificates are recognised by governments and organisations in south-east Asia and the middle-east.  

Ban based on propaganda with communal tinge

Muslim groups said that the ban is based on propaganda and has a communal tinge, but the ban has been welcomed by groups like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. In a message on X, formerly twitter, the group praised the Yogi Adityanath government for the ban. “This decision aims to curb the growing influence of the halal economy,” the message said.  

Agencies said that Halal certification helped the economy. “A Halal certification gives people faith in the hygiene of the food they are buying. The certification benefits the company,” said Patel. The Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind Halal Trust, has said that given the global demand for Halal certified products, it is profitable for Indian companies to obtain the tag.

“A matter of choice of individuals”

The association, in a statement reacting to the ban, said that the economic value of halal certification was endorsed by the ministry of commerce in a recent notification. “It is also a matter of choice of individuals and manufacturers preferring to certain certifications for their own satisfaction based upon the credentials which the certifying authorities enjoy. Those who do not want to use such products are free not to use them. Halal certification stands as a significant economic activity benefiting our nation,” the statement said.

Halal certifiers said that it was wrong to say that the certification process is designed to make profits for the agencies. “Halal certification is a service and not a business,” said Patel.

Many companies using Halal certification are owned by Hindus

Khan added that many of the meat exporting companies that use a Halal tag are owned by Hindus. “Meat exporters in Uttar Pradesh who sell their products abroad seek Halal certification and it help the country earn foreign exchange.”

But others remarked that in many cases, Islamic countries and communities recognise certifications for associations that follows the ideology of that country. For instance, Saudi Arabia, which follows the more puritanical Wahabi interpretation of the religion, accepts products certified in India by allied  groups. 

Though Indian government regulations require all Halal certification bodies to be registered with the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (which is under the Quality Council of India),  certification by groups subscribing to certain ideologies, according to Muslims who subscribe to other interpretations of the religion, is a controversial issue.

“For instance, some organisations follow an ideology that supports violence against non-believers. How do we know if the money earned from certification is not used for violence against the country?” asked Khan.      
Community groups said that they need to study the context of the ban before challenging it.

Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind Trust will take legal measures to counter the misinformation by UP govt

The Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind Halal Trust has said that it will take legal measures to counter the misinformation by the Uttar Pradesh government. Niaz Farooqui, Chief Executive Officer, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, one of the companies named in the FIR said, “Required legal action will be taken as the allegation in the FIR is based on misinformation.”  

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