Over the past two months, India has witnessed waves of hateful and anti-Muslim propaganda that have become part of everyday discourse. Conspiracy theories by far-right Hindu groups attempt to instill fear in the Muslim community. After “love jihadand ‘thook jihad’, the narrative shifted against ‘halal’.
A nationwide campaign to ban halal meat and food products by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti resulted in two emerging narratives – the sale of halal meat is a step towards turning India into an “Islamic state” and businesses selling halal products, especially those with Muslims. founders, are “anti-Hindu”.
On March 30, Harinder S Sikka, Director of Strategic Business Group at Piramal Enterprises, share a photo of a purported ‘halal policy’ document displayed at the Himalaya company’s Pune factory. Along with the photo, Sikka shared her own take on politics. While promoting a Halal boycott, he insinuated that a company holding a Halal certificate meant that its workforce was Muslim and used beef extracts in products.
Shortly after this tweet, Rashmi Samant, former president of the Oxford University Students’ Union, tweeted the same document saying, “I like my products cruelty-free. So no Himalayas until he says no Halal”. Atul Mishra, the founder of The Frustrated Indian, tweeted the document while questioning Himalaya about its Halal certificate.
Hate campaign against Muslim-owned businesses
The attack on Himalaya Company and its subsidiaries is not new. Over the past two years, consistent disinformation campaigns have been used against the company with various false claims.
In 2020, a viral message claimed that the founder of Himalaya was financing terrorist groups. That same year, another video went viral where it was claimed that after the Babri judgement, the founder of Himalaya asked Muslims to take control of justice, police, etc. Last year, there were at least three instances of recurring misinformation. used to target the company, including the selective targeting of Himalayas for the use of gelatin in capsules in the past. Alt News has debunked several cases of fake news related to the Himalayas which can be read in detail on our website.
Himalaya is now targeted for its Halal policy despite the fact that a majority of FMCG companies also obtain certification.
Read also | Halal feud: Government won’t interfere with food choices, says Ashoka
What are Halal and Halal-certified products?
According to the Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation (JUHF), which provides halal certification to Indian brands, “Halal” is an Islamic term meaning lawful, permitted or lawful. The BBC defines halal food as food that meets Islamic dietary standards.
Alt News reached out to Wasim Akhtar Shaikh, the halal coordinator and Sharia auditor at JUHF, who told us, “Halal is an Arabic word that means permitted and permitted means many things. It can mean something you can wear or something you can drink, things you are allowed to say, etc. Halal is not just about eating and drinking, it just means it’s allowed in Islam. There is also a word opposed to Halal called “Haram”, which means illegal or forbidden.
He added: “When it comes to food, Halal can be divided into two parts: Halal food and Halal meat. Again, halal food means food that is permitted and halal meat means animals that can be eaten in Islam. It can be a goat, a chicken, a camel, etc. These permitted animals are simply slaughtered in the Islamic way by reciting the Shahada, there is nothing more to it. By eating Halal meat one will not become a Muslim, it is a myth.
Read also | Karnataka to consider ‘serious objections’ to ‘halal’ meat, says CM Basavaraj Bommai
“Now, if the product is a drug or cosmetic cream and is Halal certified, it means that product does not contain any non-Halal/Haram items. A non-Halal item can be pork, pork extract or pork. alcohol. These items are not allowed in Islam, so they are not considered halal. Again, it is a myth that Halal means that only Muslims made this product, or that it contains meat. Let’s take the example of rice, they are produced by our farmer brothers. It is completely a vegetarian item considered Halal by us. Why? Because it does not contain any non-halal elements and it is allowed to eating rice in Islam,” he concluded.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also explains the meaning of Halal and the nuances associated with it. We recommend our readers to read the full text for a better understanding of the term.
Is Halal certification limited to Muslim-owned businesses?
On the Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation website, one can check the “halal status” of various businesses. It has big known names such as Adani Wilmar Ltd, Parle and Tata Consumers Product on its list. These products range from castor oil to cookies to tea leaves. Therefore, the claim that only Muslim-owned businesses or businesses that only have Muslim employees have Halal-certified products is ridiculous and certifiably false. Halal is a food standard certificate that helps Muslims determine if a food product is permissible for them to eat. Halal simply means what is permissible for Muslims. This does not mean that it is prohibited for non-Muslims.
Large companies export their products to hundreds of countries around the world and are required to comply with the rules and regulations of importing countries. In most cases, Halal certification is obtained to expand the business to OIC countries and Gulf countries. In 2015 alone, the value of Halal food imports from Saudi Arabia was US$21.54 billion, followed by Malaysia with US$14.96 billion of Halal food imports . The global Halal market is large and attractive for Indian companies. This was very clearly underlined in the statement Posted by Himalaya regarding the recent misleading campaign against its products.
— Himalaya Wellness Company (@HimalayaIndia) April 1, 2022
The Himalayas are not the only target
In 2021, another Muslim-owned business, Bengaluru-based iD Fresh Foods, fell victim to a malicious campaign. Social media claimed that the company “only hires Muslims” and is “halal certified”. Despite multiple clarifications from iD Fresh Foods, he remains a target. Earlier in March, to counter misinformation campaigns, the company began sharing live video feeds from its factory in Bangalore.
However, those facing the brunt of the hateful campaigns are the economically backward Muslim business owners. Recently. the Karnataka government banned Muslim vendors from temple fairs citing the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act 2002. This was after far-right Hindu groups demanded a ban.
Similarly, during their latest campaign to ban halal-certified products, Hindutva outfits physically attacked a Muslim meat vendor in Shivamogga district of Karnataka. In January 2021, a Muslim shoe salesman was arrested after members of a far-right group accused him of selling ‘Thakur’ shoes. Last October, in Gujarat, a hundred people demonstrated against the inauguration of a hotel because the owners were Muslims.
In August 2021, two Muslim brothers who ran a roadside food stall in Agra were harassed and their stall vandalized. In the same month, a Muslim bracelet seller was beaten by locals for allegedly concealing his identity while selling bracelets. He was later charged with harassment.
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