To Halal or not to Halal

The concept of Halal is derived from Islam and it simply means permissible. The term usually designates food and drinks.

A halal food is that which adheres to the Islamic law, as defined in the Koran and mainly involves the Islamic form of slaughtering animals (e.g a cut to the jugular vein, non pork products, etc). A halal drink on the other hand is one which is non-alcoholic. (Source)

The concept of Halal is meant to guide a Muslim lifestyle by ensuring that they consume food and drinks which are good for them.

Over the years, as more people are aware of the do’s and don’ts of Islam, what is Halal (permissible) have been thrown into the spotlight and of all the Islamic and multi-racial countries in the world, none is as drastic as Malaysia. Here are some recent examples of the Halal debate in Malaysia.

Halal Mineral Water

I’ve always thought that mineral water is, by definition, halal. I mean… can pure water be not halal? How can mineral water that is safe for consumption not be halal? Well… apparently not all water is created equal.

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This amazing spring water is accredited to be halal. But it’s not clear from news reports which agency accredited the mineral water to be halal. But it’s definitely certified safe for consumption by the Health Ministry and Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim). Presumably Jakim was also the agency that gave Lumin Spring its halal accreditation.

Hot Dogs

Food outlets with hot dogs to sell in Malaysia are facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions: they may soon need to call their hot dogs something else.

Muslim tourist reportedly complain about the name of the food, which often contains pork meat in the west, but is mostly made from Halal Chicken in the Malaysia. Director of the Halal divison in Malaysia said that consumers were ‘confused’ over the wording of the hot dogs (despite the fact that a huge halal cert is already on display over the counter)

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Halal Lifts

Because Malaysians are so concerned with the literal definition of halal – restaurants will do everything they can to prevent losing their halal certification as it would mean a huge loss of business for them.

This sign was found in a five star hotel. (Source)

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Halal Movies

Journey to the West – The Monkey King 2 is a highly anticipated film, scheduled to release during Chinese New Year last year. But in promotional billboards in Malaysia, one of its key characters is nowhere to be found. The character of a pig has disappeared off billboard in Kuala Lumpur advertising the Hong Kong action fantasy film ‘Journey to the West.

The missing character, a pig character called Zhubajie, is one of four key characters in the movie based on popular Chinese folklore ‘Journey to the West’. It’s character is usually represented by the animal pig, and probably removed from billboards to avoid complaints by local muslims.

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Are these Halal too?

The literal translation of what is halal and what is not in Malaysia is alarming. I find it disturbing that they are more concerned with the label on their food then the other social problems in their society.

Why are we making halal items non-permissible just because there is no authoritative label on it. Are we Muslims incapable of taking ownership and deciding for ourselves what is halal and what is not?

Before the establishment of Malaysia’s halal regulatory body, people were fine deciding for themselves what is halal and what is not. They used their common sense and a lot of discretion. For example, if it is a Muslim butcher, then it makes sense that the meat is halal without the need for them to display the halal cert (or worst; to keep updating the cert every year)

The list with ‘non halal’ names are endless. From the top of my head, names such as Root Beer, Guinea Pig and ‘Sawan Babi’ (epilepsy)  definitely do not make the cut. Are Malaysians going to rename every single of them because according to them ‘to avoid confusion’. . .