23 June, 2017

Consequences Of Demanding The State To Impose A Blanket Ban On Halal

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The Arabic word halal simply means permissible and is the direct opposite of haram meaning prohibited. In between these two extremes there are several shades of permissibility and prohibition, and in none of which, including the two extremities, there is unanimity of opinion among Muslim religious scholars. (I know one instance where a Muslim lady in Australia asked an imam whether food bought from Kentucky Fried was halal or not. The imam told her to mention the name of Allah before eating and that would make it halal. This position is not acceptable to a majority of scholars.) This categorization in cover not only the narrow field of food and drinks but also the vast terrain of personal and societal behaviour and actions, such as economic transactions, social interaction, national governance, and so on.  There are a number of contradictory and conflicting fatwas or religious rulings in relation to each of them. However, the bottom line is that they are all meant for Muslims and to Muslims only. Even in Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia non-Muslims are not compelled to consume halal food. For example, the Chinese in these countries are allowed to produce, consume, and trade in pork and pork related products even though such products are declared haram in Islam and even though some extremist Muslim groups would prefer them to be prohibited in the name of shariah laws.  Hence, in Sri Lanka or anywhere else if any one forces a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Christian to eat halal food that action itself will tantamount to haram.

Apart from religion it is the economics of halal that is important in the global context. Even in the narrow field of food and drinks the halal-stamped products are a multi-billion dollar business in today’s global market. According to one estimate the total value of global the halal food industry amounted to $1.2 trillion. Let us look at some hard facts about the size of this market. To start with, the financially affluent Middle East, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has a population of roughly 38 million. There are another 30 million or so Muslims living in the West the vast majority of whom are halal food consumers. The emerging economies of Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia account for a further 335 million. In South Asia, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a total of roughly 350 million Muslims. Thus, the total Muslim population of just these countries alone amounts to 753 million. Assuming a conservative ten percent of this huge market consumes imported halal-stamped food and drinks the size of that ten percent is more than three times the entire domestic market of Sri Lanka.

Given the size of the halal food market the controversy over this issue that is currently creating mayhem in Sri Lanka – a Buddhist country historically known for its pluralism and religious tolerance – appears bizarre and ridiculous to say the least. Behind the newspaper headlines and the political rhetoric the underlying issue involving all the protests and counter protests seems to be not the principles of halal and haram but the money that is accruing to their advocates. The Sri Lanka Jamiyathul Ulema (SLJU), a self-appointed halal certifying agency, and the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS), a far right Buddhist-nationalist organization with its foster parent Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) are at the centre of this running controversy, while a popularly elected government with an absolute majority in the national legislature and a President with immense power in his hands are sitting on the fence.

The JU, an unelected body of the Sri Lankan Muslims appears to have arrogated to itself the power of deciding what is halal and haram.  Neither the credentials of its members nor their knowledge about Islamic jurisprudence are under any doubt here, but as a collective body who gave them this authority to certify halal products? What is SLJU’s organizational structure? Does it employ qualified food technologists who could study the various ingredients of each processed item of food and drink and certify whether they fall within the religiously permissible? Does SLJU have its own abattoirs or supervise abattoirs owned by Muslims to see whether healthy animals are slaughtered humanely and hygienically, an essential requirement of halal meat? Does it supervise Muslim owned restaurants to see what ingredients that goes into food preparation and how clean these restaurants are? On what basis does this body charge the fees for its certificates? Does it pay tax on its revenue to the state? Or is it exempted by the government from that obligation? What does it do with the revenue it collects? Is this body accountable to any one? Are its accounts audited? These are questions that SLJU has to answer and make its financial activities transparent. The Muslim community, let alone the nation, has a right to raise these questions and it deserves an answer from SLJU.

On the other hand, BBS and JHU must understand that by demanding the state to impose a blanket ban on halal certification it is acting against the national interest. Does BBS and JHU know that food processing Sri Lankan companies are competing in the global market? Halal-stamped food items have a niche market in rich countries and in countries with an affluent Muslim middle class. As a Sri Lankan born Australian citizen living in Australia for more than three decades I am able to see with great delight the rising popularity of Sri Lankan food items in the local grocery and super markets. Sri Lankan brand biscuits, cordials, and ready-to-eat processed food items are entering into Muslim households irrespective of the nationality of Muslim consumers. I am confident that this should be the case in countries like UK, Canada, New Zealand and in Europe. In the West alone there are about 30 million potential customers to be won for Sri Lankan halal-stamped products. Why should BBS and JHU by its narrow mindedness deprive Sri Lankan companies of Sinhalese entrepreneurs of competing in this flourishing market? Shouldn’t Sri Lanka’s export products and markets be diversified? The anti-halal agitation does not make economic sense.

The question is who should certify the halal products? The obvious answer is the Sri Lankan Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Through its Muslim Secretariat it should be able to employ suitably qualified individuals with expert knowledge in both Islamic jurisprudence as well as food technology to supervise abattoirs, food manufacturing establishments and restaurants to certify halal processing and halal products. The fees charged for this service must go to remunerate the Ministry’s employees and any surplus revenue must go to the treasury. The Sri Lankan government has a legitimate case to operate this service on behalf of the Muslims because it is the government that funds Muslim education, and Muslim cultural activities like Islamic broadcasting and telecasting services, and the operation of the Wakf Board. The halal seal from a state agency employing Muslim experts will certainly get the approval of Muslim governments and international traders. By engaging in halal supervision the Sri Lankan government will not only assure the local Muslim community that it is consuming genuine halal products but also will open opportunities to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs of all ethnic groups to gain a foothold in the trillion dollar global Muslim food market.

 *Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

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    Dear Dr.Ali…Why do we want to label a product according to a religion belief or a particular religion group? If product description says, ‘no pork fat included…or other’ do those Muslim countries refuse eating these foods? why do we want a special logo to certified food based on a particular religion group when we have alternative ways to describe it on the label description that I have mentioned above. It is simple any one can eat those products irrespective of the religion. Port fat is not good for health it is a truth. Before Islam came all humans ate pork. This not means that all these people will be punished by Allah or anybody when final judgment day comes. Finally, religion or philosophy has to uplift human living standards and religion has to realize it.

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      Good that you are asking these questions. You need to find the answers yourself. Because in this modern day and age if you have doubts about the fundamentals of freedom and market economics, no amount of explaining will help

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    Mr ali;do you think your article will be appreciated by the majority ruling this country;we in srilanka are not keen on trying to prove anything to them;as there hatred is so intense against the muslims;we are happy with whatever cruelty they are going to put us through;our main goal in life is to please almighty Allah inshaAllah

    • 0
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      “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.” Those were the last words of 9/11 hijackers. Tell us Besty Nabil, AYMAN and co, are they with Allah now?

      • 0
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        (ig) noble,

        You did not hear them say that, did you? That is what you were told. and you would believe anything as long as it reinforces your hatred of islam.

      • 0
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        I have no idea. And my wish is that they should not! I am not sure if the LTTE cadres who blew themselves up are in heaven or if all those people who kill themselves in the name of religion are, the point is that you don’t realize that violence begets violence.

        The US/UK and the coalition of the willing fought a bogus war and do you by chance remember there was the guy who held up something at the UN SC and said that he had proof of Iraqi WMD? And they bombed and destroyed Iraqi homes, raped young girls for the heck of it and got a dishonourable discharge for their trouble.

        According to the UN American actions including sanctions killed over half a million babies.

        Do you recall watching George Bush declare war in the name of god?

        Do you realise that BBS is declaring “war on Muslims” because what happened in the US?

        You view the Muslims with jaundiced eyes. Manchal Kamaalaikku Kaanpazellam Manchal.

        I don’t condon violence and my thoughts are with all those who were killed in that violence.

        But bigots and racists like you, sorry I have no time for you!

      • 0
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        Noble,there is no proof to show 9/11 was committed by Muslims.even the 75 professors of USA says its an Inside Job.For Modayas like u all rubbish uttered by the Buddhist Hijackers called Balu sena and Co,. these days are fact.Look up and dream that prices will shoot down after removing the Halaal logo.
        With Modayas like u,the Country is run by stupidest of the people on Earth.the Parloament Consist of Rapist,Killers,womenisers,drug Peddalars., who had promised to make Sri Lanka the MIRACLE OF ASIA.Keep dreaming..

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        I think Noble was there when 9/11 hijackers hijacked the flight. Even most of the educated people in USA itself belie that it is an inside Job. Ask any civil engineer if you don’t have brain, the way building collapsed, there no way it is just because of a hit of a flight. Buy the way if trust what all these medias says, then the same American media says that Sri Lankan amy all those did the war crime. Watch South Indian medias. All Sinhalese people are killers according to them. No what you say.

  • 0
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    I can imagine the controversy if a similar project to what the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema had undertaken in Sri Lanka is attempted in Western Australia, in introducing a religious tenor to a commercial enterprise based on people’s faith….

    • 0
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      Lasantha,

      Halal is well and thriving in India. The Middle East and Malaysia are key markets for Australian Lamb and Beef. Brazil has the largest export market share for Poultry in the middle east.

      Each one of these exporters is using the Halal method to slaughter animals and each of these products are Halal certified and the Halal logo prominently printed on packages.Please Google Sadia Frozen Chicken, if you need to verify.

      Also remember that we have a Million Sri Lankans working in the ME and ALL of them consume only Halal products.

      So to me all this is bigotry, founded on mistrust and racism. You may call the issue by any other name but smells foul and racist to those who have learnt tolerance.

  • 0
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    All this is happening as 2 members of the SLMC are sitting in Cabinet. A community abandoned by it’s leadership is set adrift.

    • 0
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      THE SRI LANKA MUSLIM CONGRESS, THE CREATION OF THE LATE ASHRAF WAS FORMED, NOT IN THE INTERESTS OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, BUT FOR HIM TO CARVE OUT A “NICHE”FOR HIM AS “SUPREMO” IN THE “NORTH-EASTERN”STATE OF V.P.. IT IS WHEN V.P. GOT WIND OF THIS THAT VP JUST GAVE A COUPLE OF
      HOURS FOR THE NORTHERN MUSLIMS TO GET OUT. THE SLMC WAS THE CAUSE FOR THE EXODUS OF MUSLIMS. UNTIL THEN THEY PAID “KAPPANG” AND LIVED

      RAJAPAKSE, SPLIT EVERY PARTY IN THE OPPOSITION. I THINK THE S.L.M.C
      SPLIT ITO THREE. THEY REPRESENT NONE BUT THEMSELVES.

      ACTUALLY THE MUSLIMS HAVE NO REPRESENTATIVES ALTHOUGH SOME MUSLIMS HOLD CABINET POSTS. THEY CANT THE SERVE OF A CABINET OR POST.

  • 0
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    Lets not beat around the bush …. the halal cert has a long term plan and it has nothing to do with religion.
    going by real halal/haram you Muslims cannot even move with non-muslims especially those not in the book that is the buddhists and hindus. so lets be honest here.
    every aspect to your diet is selfishly inclined – you can even eat haram stuff in a situation that you decide… whilst the pentecosts say they dont take medicien and they dont.
    blood is haram but you can take blood from others while u insist on a halal cert…
    thankfully the buddhists saw through these designs.
    moreover do muslims in sri lanka like like muslims .. just look at the way the colombo muslims live.. i cant understand what halal they are raving about drinking and smoking

    • 0
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      YOU HINDUS TOO ARE AS GOOD AS THE MUSLIMS WHO DRINK SMOKE GAMBLE AND
      DO WHAT IS PROHIBITED. DONT GENERALIZE. THAT IS WHEN YOU GET INTO
      YOUR OWN CESS PIT.

    • 0
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      Dear Shiva,

      You are only ranting and raving. Can you tell me what is it you are trying to say? :(

    • 0
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      Drinking and smoking by marginal Muslim individuals does not have any bearing on what the religious teachings impart, which is total abstension. Halal (permissible) on the other hand is for Muslims to strictly adhere to religious tenets in performing deeds and actions which conform to Islamic principles. It is not for non-Muslims to question nor pass judgement, since they are not at all suitable to adjudicate any such violations.

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    I think it is futile to try to convince others that they benefit by consuming Halal. Halal is for Muslims only and ACJU or other bodies should implement a scheme where muslims can fullfill their religous obligations without trying to drag everyone into it.

    Various countries and companies may allow or opt for Halal certification due to commercial reasons. In such cases it is the decision of the entity which is based on finacial viability and market research. Otherwise muslims should not impose their views and practices on others. What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.

    “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]

    “To you your religion and to me mine” [Surah al-Kafirun]

    Also in the practice of religon, muslims must be careful not to offend the sensitivities and subtleities of other folk. Human rights encompasses a larger scope today than in the past. Islam itself is not a rigid doctrine and commandments can change depending on the circumstances. By being rigid muslims only make it difficult for themselves. Take advantage of what is allowed and permitted by god without being rigid.

    ‘God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship’ (2:185);
    ‘Do those deeds which you can do easily, as Allah will not get tired [of giving rewards] till you get bored and tired [of performing good deeds! … and the most beloved deed to Allah is the one which is done regularly even if it is little’ (Bukhari).

  • 0
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    The Halal controversy should be allowed to de-escalate now that the concerned ACJU has publicly come down. Further opening the wound
    by Muslim writers is likely cause more harm to the Muslim community
    in particular and to peace in the country in general.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
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      AYMAN,
      You mean you’ll continue to force feed us with your Halal food.

  • 0
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    WE DONT HAVE TO ESCALATE. WE KNOW THE GOATS AGENDA. MUSLIMS WILL NOT BACKTRACK.

  • 0
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    Since when Srilanka becomes a Buddhist Country, i never found any historical material states that the whole island is a Buddhist country, it could be majority of people follows Bbuddhism, however that doesn’t mean this is a Buddhist country and Buddhist way prevails above all

  • 0
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    Just think if world largest economy USA asks they want Evanjalical critian lable certified products? UK asks Church of England logo product? India asks ‘rama seal’ products? What will happen to the international trade? Muslims should understand this problem. Why do they want to divide community based on unethical and un-logical concepts like Halal mark? UK parliament is going to pass a bill regarding about the animal slaughter and Halal lable. Kindly anyone tell me why non Muslims should eat Halal food?

    • 0
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      Dear Duleep

      The world celebrates diversity. Here are examples

      01. Kosher for Jews
      02. Halal for Muslims
      03. Vegetraian for Hindus
      04. GM foods for those who don’t care about the environment
      05. Organic foods for those who care about the environment
      06. Vegan food for those don’t mind eating egg with veggies
      07, Branded food for those who want brands
      08. Unbranded food for those who don’t want to pay for brands

      You will find all these consumer segments thriving. Business will cater to all segments of consumer as long as they are COMMERCIALLY viable.

      If you view it from a narrow I must hate Muslims mindset you wont see it like that. My appeal to you is please open you eyes and take in what is happening in the world.

      It can be a good learning experience for all of us
      thank you

    • 0
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      this proves how narrow-minded and ignorent people like you are. Sri Lanka has become the 1st country to ban halal certified products. Effect on export sales due to this are yet to come.Even countries like chile where muslim population is lessa tha0.5% have adopted halal certfication systems to reach global market. This only proves the jelousy of incompetenet sinhala buddhist businessmen

  • 0
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    1.the writer talking about export markets getting affected. plz read the news first, halal logo is allowed for export.
    2.my question is, y should we eat chicken,beef,lamb which is slaughtered after saying some muslim prayer? doesnt my religious purity get messed up?
    3.muslims have the right to decide wat they wanna eat. same way, i have the same bloody right to decide wat i wanna eat. dont force me to eat halal stamped food.
    4.y isnt there no pork in mac donalds in sri lanka? the pork sale is almost zero , worse than other muslim countries. if we leave this, next they will insert sharya law.

    • 0
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      Dear Anti Halal,

      I can understand your frustration, I have to eat fish and chips when I am in the UK or look for Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants for a decent meal.

      But these are choices we are called upon to make in a highly commercialized world.

      McDonald’s have a great customer feedback process. I am sure you will get a satisfactory resolution to your complaint

  • 0
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    criteria for halal
    *Animals not slaughtered properly or not slaughtered in the name of Allah

    y on earth do i have to eat an animal slaughtered in the name of allah.
    my muslim brothers n sisters, plz explain

    • 0
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      You don’t have to!

    • 0
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      1. The Buddha never advised you to not eat halal meat.
      2. The meat shop sells halal meat only because there are buyers.
      3. Halal meat has less blood. Blood is haram, it has more anti-bodies and germs.
      4. Halal meat is either fresh or frozen fresh.
      5. Halal meat is not produced through sinful acts like killing a hen by banging it against the wall or beating a pig with poles to death. Neither it has meat of animals that died of sickness or other natural or accidental reasons.
      6. Eating halal meat is voluntary for non-Muslims. You can always not buy a halal meat. But, Anti-Halal campaigners have no right to force Muslims to eat non-halal meat.
      7. About one million Buddhist Sinhalese who sent about 5 billion dollars in foreign exchange to Sri Lanka from middle east, eat halal meat without any complaint. If they found it so hard to eat halal meat, they would have returned to Sri Lanka. But, there is no any reported case of such returning so far. Instead, they are leading to healthy life.
      8. Allah means the god or the creator of the universe. There is no religion without a god though they call him by different names. Something killed with the fear of god in mind is always better than something killed with devil mind.

      I think the above few reasons are more than enough for you to change your name into ‘prohalal’ isn’t it?

  • 0
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    An excellent analysis coming from an intellectual. One cannot look at this problem with a sense of prejudice.The observance of halal by the Muslims has nothing to do with any attempt to impose their beliefson others but to ensure that they eat what they believe to be clean food. I was once at the Moscow airport and I had to spend the night in one of the hotels.There was a very educated Pakistani who was frantically looking for a vegetatarian dinner. I was surprised at this and I told him that I would have thought that being a Muslim he would have looked for meat. His reply was:”It is precisely because I am a Muslim that I am looking for vegetarian food tonight”.It did not take much time to appreciate his point. Sri Lanka does not export beef or lamb to the rest of the world and hence the inward looking sri Lankan polity cannot undertstand the importance of halal.In fact, it is said that Jesus Christ drove the devil into a pig so that, is there any surprise that health conscious persons avoid eating pork.
    Bensen

  • 0
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    1. ACJU should close its offices (why should they care if the exporters are in a quandary?)
    2. They should inspect all food items in the market and inform Muslims as to its halaal/haraam status via their website. They could even ask manufacturers for list of ingredients for this purpose. If it is refused ACJU should accept this and inform Muslims accordingly(but not get involved in the manufacturing process)
    3. They should only certify Muslim abattoirs and ensure that any animals slaughtered for consumption by Muslims STRICTLY adhere to Muslim laws. Butchers, after a while tend to become cold-hearted murderers.
    4. All expenses of the ACJU should be funded by Muslims only (perhaps through Mosques)
    4. A Muslim company could be formed to manufacture and export halaal certified food. This could well prevent black-clad women (some are non-Muslims in disguise) roaming the streets on Thursdays and Fridays!!!

    PEACE IS PARAMOUNT

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      Not a bad iead brother.We need good bothers Like nabil,ayman and others who had put forward the Muslim view Point.

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    The fact is Sinhalese don’t care whatever the food is. They eat all dirty foods. Don’t force other to do so. Now they Join Hindus and Christians with them and say 91% don’t want Halaal. Why only they remember the Hindus & Christian at this point. Why didn’t you remember when churches are bunt and why not when Tamils killed inhuman manner in noth & east. Even today when Kovils are demolished by army and plant Buddhist statues in Noth and East.

  • 0
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    All the question By Mr. Amee Ali from ACJU was already answered. ACJU account are properly edited and a copy is given to Ministry of defense and Treasury far before the problem start. Government never denied it.

  • 0
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    I am in a decision Making place in an Arab Country, regarding importing of Food item. I will never allow food items to the country without Halaal certification. So when company loose their business let BBS compensate them.

  • 0
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    This halal certification is a complete fraud in Sri Lanka. I live in Australia and we can buy any amount of consumer food items without halal certification. Most of the Australian compnies are competing in the internaltional markets and they do this without halal certification. One example is the chocalates. When I was in Sri Lanka in December, 2012, I went to supermarkets and I could not buy a single Sri Lankan made chocalte without the halal certification. The only chocalate brand that was available without halal certification is Cadbury. That is made in Australia. This applies to other products as well.

    Most of the Australian companies are selling their consumer food items without halal certification nationally and internationally.

    • 0
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      Dear Sunil

      Please don’t present opinion as fact. All you had to do is Google the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry -and they will be happy to inform you about the halal process and how halal products are certified.

      Australia is one of the largest exporters of Halal Beef and Lamb.

      Its a pity, despite living in Australia, you don’t know what your host country is doing.

  • 0
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    Did Muslim requested or demanded the Sri Lanka Companies to certify halal Logo???
    Companies did this for their market segmentation to capture Muslim community.
    ACJU assisted them by inspecting the process and delivering the certificate.
    Neither Muslims nor ACJU demanded for companies to produce Halal certified product.
    Simple question is why BBS and JHU are blaming for Muslim?
    Did Muslims ask non-Muslim to consume halal products?
    Why blame Muslim????
    Be clever … don’t be a stupid and believe all these nonsenses..
    There are hundreds of good things similar among our communities / religions.
    We will be united against all bade things which are bade for all religion, liquor shop, brothel, bribe and etc..

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