Halal food certification - purely voluntary - Minister Nimal
Siripala de Silva
The 'Halal certification' by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulamas (ACJU)
has become a contentious issue inviting criticism among a section of the
society while others curry favour with it. Fuelled by a malicious email
campaign that causes more damage to the country than protect the
interests of the Sinhalese Buddhists, certain sections have warned that
the issue will sow communal hatred and drag the country towards another
violent phase. Last week the issue reached the topmost legislative body
– the Parliament.
Some of the sentiments expressed and representations made by
concerned parties and individuals in Parliament and response to queries
made by the Sunday Observer are compiled below:
Leader of the House and Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva
making a special statement in Parliament in reply to the Opposition
Leader said, “There is no need to give government approval for Halal
food certification since it is a voluntary exercise. It is up to the
consumers to accept or reject halal food or halal certification. The
government would not permit anyone or any body to impose halal
He said,” It is under President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the State
radio started broadcasting Azan prayers five times a day. Sri Lanka is
the one and only non Muslim country in the world which has given this
The government condemns the statement made by the Leader of the
Opposition against halal certification and the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul
ACJU has played a vital role at the last Geneva conference in support
of a unitary status and against the influences of anti Sri Lankan
The leader of the Opposition finds fault with this organisation since
it did not want to become a cat’s paw of the Opposition. Halal
certification is known internationally and not only the Muslim nations
but also some western nations have approved of it. The international
headquarters of this certifying body the World Halal Food Council is
situated in Indonesia. They have their member organisations in other
countries. ACJU is the one accepted and approved by the World Halal Food
Council. Neither the Sri Lankan government nor government institutes
have accepted this organisation. There is no such need to give
government approval for it since it is voluntary to obtain halal food
certification. It is up to the consumers to accept or reject halal food
or halal certification. The government would not permit anyone or body
to impose halal certification.
There is an MoU signed between the Halal certification institute in
Thailand and All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU).
The Leader of the Opposition alleges that there are a number of
websites spreading anti-Muslim sentiments. It is a known fact that
opposition activists and leaders had managed a number of websites to
sling mud at the President and the government. The government has
commenced action against websites which operate against the Muslim
religion. Yet, technology is so sophisticated that even if we shut down
one website they could commence another.
The President had meetings with the Muslim Ministers who had promised
to do their best to avoid extremist forces causing disturbances.
The government has also proposed to set up a Parliamentary Select
Committee in this regard but the Leader of the Opposition has refused to
participate in it. The refusal indicates unwillingness to cooperate with
the process of finding a solution to the problem. The Opposition Leader
who has repeatedly said to reject terrorist struggles has an opportunity
to participate in the PSC and prove his words by cooperating to find a
President Rajapaksa has instructed political and police leadership to
take utmost care to suppress any movement that would cause religious
disharmony in the country.
The President met the prelates of all Chapters on Wednesday evening
at the Presidential Secretariat and informed them of the conspiracies
against the country and sought their advice to promote reconciliation. I
request all opposition parties to participate in the special
Parliamentary Select Committee to be appointed to look into the
religious disharmony to find a permanent solution.”
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament
The present situation is being fuelled by rumours. The government has
taken no steps to control the escalating situation. Divisions are being
emphasised rather than minimised. The first canard is that the Sinhalese
are becoming a minority in the Sinhala deep. There is a so called map
showing the increase of Muslims in the 7 Southern provinces with the
Sinhalese becoming a minority in the near future. Another map shows the
country without any Muslims at the time of arrival of the Portuguese. It
was the Muslims that warned Dharma Parakramabahu VIII not to allow the
Portuguese to come into the country. The Sinhala ratio has increased
from the time of independence, 1947 when it was 63% to what it is today
to 75%. But the ratio within the minorities have changed since a large
number of Tamils have left the country. D S Senanayake said that the
Sinhalese are the majority in the country and will always be the
majority but the Tamils and the Muslims also have the right to live in
this country and to be treated equally. If the Sinhalese population is
in danger of being depleted we in the UNP will be the first to raise the
issue in the House.
Secondly, there is the question of halal certification. To the best
of our information it is an purely voluntary matter. If anyone has
forced halal certification on business organisations an inquiry must
take place after a complaint is made. The government must inform us why
a private organisation is assigned to perform this function which is the
responsibility of the Sri Lanka Standards Institute? The Muslim
leadership I met are all in favour of resolving this issue in a manner
acceptable to all parties. Therefore, I have to ask the government why
they allowed this question to boil over. Why did you fail to start a
discussion on the issue with the Muslim community and the business
Senior Minister for Disaster Management A.H.M. Fowzie
I can't understand why this issue has grown out of proportion. The
Muslims and Sinhalese have been living very cordially. There is a lot of
trust between the two communities.
There were isolated incidents from time to time but generally our
relations were very cordial.
But since of late there is some element that is working against our
community, I believe to bring discredit to the Government. During the
last UN sessions in Geneva, the Muslim countries supported the
Government, and now with the next sessions around the corner there are
some elements working to ensure that the Muslim countries don't support
the Government in the event of a negative resolution being moved against
They are trying to provoke the Muslims and create a problem between
the two communities which had been living peacefully for a long time.
I ask them to be careful and not to be misled by these malicious
campaigns. They are only trying to destroy us.
They have also been raising some unwanted issues with regard to the
beliefs of the Islamic faith.
The Opposition Leader is speaking without facts. He is coming out
with various allegations against the Government. Since President
Rajapaksa took over office, he has been careful in handling sensitive
matters. He has undertaken to look after all communities alike and to
ensure that all peoples have freedom to practise their religions.
Such a leadership must be valued. The Opposition Leader is angry with
the Jamiyyathul Ulamas' President because he went to Geneva in March
2012 and canvassed for Sri Lanka among the Muslim countries. It twisted
the outcome at the last sessions in our favour. He thinks Rizwi Mufti is
a stooge of the government. He is not a stooge of the Government, he is
doing what is necessary for the country. When the country is in turmoil
we all have to look after the interests of the country. That is what he
did. Mr. Wickremesinghe is trying to make it into a political drama.
With regard to halal, we as Muslims are prohibited certain things and
allowed to do certain things. As far as food is concerned we have to
take halal food. The halal and haraam concept apply to everything a
Muslim does. Halal is what is permitted and haraam is what is
The proposal that halal certification has to be taken over by the
Government is also due to a personal vengeance against Mr. Mufti. The
amount of money the Jamiyyathul Ulama recovers as fee for the
certificate is not enough to run their institution. I offered some grant
out of my own salary to the institution since they were in a difficult
state, I also proposed that the Muslim business entities must get their
The Sinhalese are not communal. We have been living in this country
peacefully with them for a long time.
Head of the Muslim Wing of the SLFP and Investment Promotion Deputy
Minister Faizer Mustapha
Halal products are prepared in compliance with the Islamic faith.
When animals are being slaughtered, the manner in which it should be
done is laid down in the religion. It is a 100% voluntary exercise.
Simply if you take ice cream, in some products there are pork
ingredients, which is not permissible for Muslims to consume. So halal
is a mode of identification to give awareness to a person who follows
the Islamic faith that this particular product is halal in terms of his
or her religion. It is a voluntary process. There are a large number of
Buddhists in the country who are vegetarians. Halal is similar to saying
the product is 100% vegetarian. There are such products all over the
world, for example 'corsha' for Jews which says the food produced is in
compliance to the Jews' faith.
Unfortunately, this has been blown out of proportion. I am fully
aware 'Jamiyyathul Ulama' has not forced anybody to get this
licence/certification. Not only Muslim establishments but some non
Muslim companies too have obtained this certification to attract Muslim
customers. Their intention is commercial, to expand their market. It has
no prejudice to any other faith. The halal issue has been diverted by
certain quarters to an anti Islamic campaign. I am one of the Muslim
Ministers who brought Dammapadaya to all the Hotel rooms in the country.
I have done more for Buddha sasana in the Kandy district than may be
even the Buddhist Ministers. I have been very close to the Asgiriya and
Malwathu Maha Nayaka theras. Muslims in the community have not asked
even an inch of soil in the country.
All these problems started after the Muslims got on to the streets
during the last Human Rights Sessions in Geneva to express solidarity
with the Government. There are many international forces working to
spread distrust among the Muslim and Sinhalese communities. We should
not get caught up in this process.
As the President says anybody who preaches religious hatred, is
promoting terrorism. We must think like Sri Lankans and work like one
community. America has produced a coloured President, we are in an era
where religion and race play a small role.
Some extreme forces are trying to get the country go backward, we
must read through their minds.
I do not wish to get into any confrontational position but I think
the Opposition Leader has made a misleading statement in parliament.
Jamiyyathul Ulama is a voluntary body ...I don't think any wrongdoing
has been done by this institution because they have always worked in the
interests of the Muslim community.
Chairman Islamic Solidarity Front Reyyaz Sally
The President should ban all communal political parties, extreme
religious groups and close down websites which could lead to conflicts
among the communities.
I met the Secretary of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs M.K.B.
Dissanayake and discussed issues pertaining to halal certificates. My
suggestion is to bring it under the Muslim Ministry. As the Bodu Bala
Sena said companies like LB Finance and Lanka Orient Leasing are run
with the interests they collect and how can sharia make it legal?
Even before Bodu Bala Sena raised the issue I have been warning
Jameeyathul Ulema not to venture into commercial things. Today Muslim
restaurant owners pay for halal certificates, they need not pay because
Muslims do not sell pork. When we step into a restaurant we look at the
name board and look for any Arabic calligraphy frames to identify
whether it's a Muslim hotel. We do not look for signs of halal.
National Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara
Issues such as this come up among communities from time to time. The
current issue of halal food has become one such contentious question. We
must ensure that it is not dragged into a political drama that would
lead to provoking communities against each other, and confine it to the
matter in question – labelling of food in compliance with the Islamic
We have to resort to professional ways of resolving the issue. I can
understand Buddhists not wanting to consume food labelled as Halal . If
that is so there should be a way to have the same product with and
without the label, to suit Muslim and non Muslim consumers.
hatred among communities by these issues is unacceptable.
Minister Champika Ranawaka (Jathika Hela Urumaya)
Actually what the ACJU is trying to do is to segregate the Sri Lankan
society on religious lines.
This institution is trying to impose their way of life, their customs
and food habits through the Sri Lankan Islamic society on other
communities. Ours is a multicultural multi-religious society. So far
each others' religious customs were kept within the community. The
current move disrupts peaceful coexistence of society.
The ACJU is propagating the notion that by way of obtaining the halal
certificate Sri Lankan produce can penetrate the 9.3 billion Muslim
market that represents 23% of the global market.
We are not opposing the idea, of exporting our produce to Middle
Eastern countries. We oppose the imposition of one religious custom on
We have reports that some food chains have been asked to comply to
certification. What if the same request comes from Hindus with regard to
beef? What if Christians and the Buddhists make similar requests?
Muslims can have the freedom to choose but a single organisation should
not be given the power to impose things on the communities.
All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama founded in 1924, is a nonpolitical,
non-governmental organisation working towards the well-being of the
Muslims and all Sri Lankans.
Halal is NOT a sacrifice to GOD by any means. It is food which does
not contain unsuitable ingredients according to Islamic belief.
Halal is not a rule only confined to the consumption of meat for food
by the Muslims. Also it is not food sacrificed in the name of God. It is
a lifestyle. In this process the people pay attention to food, beverages
and personal care. Our Association crucially observes the process with
the ‘farm to folk’ concept with the assistance of scientific testings
when required, and ensures that non Halal items are not incorporated at
any point of the process.
The halal certification for products of manufacturers is processed
only with the interest of the individual organisation and with the
commitment of being transparent to the entire production line.
A certification is issued only after completely verifying the
production process. Normally, a fee is levied for any product or
service. Similarly we also levy a fee for this service. The fee has been
decided in a manner that will neither make an impact on the producer nor
the consumer. We strongly emphasise we do not charge several hundred
thousand rupees on a product or a percentage of the profit or charge
fees on any other base.
Halal certification involves less than 10 cents on a finished
product. For some institutions it is even less than a cent.