- ACJU pledges to protect ethnic harmony, vehemently denies charging high fees and will fully cooperate with Cabinet committee
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Companies with Halal certification were advised by Muslim religious leaders yesterday to limit Halal products to the Muslim community and make available the same product in a non-Halal format to others.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), which is the pre-eminent Muslim religious organisation in Sri Lanka with over 3,000 Ulamas as members, has requested companies with Halal certification to make available two sets of the same product – one Halal and one non-Halal. Understandably the non-Halal product will be available to non-Muslims while the Halal product will be bought by Muslims.
The Jamiyyathul Ulama is also the organisation that issues Halal certification in Sri Lanka and has been in existence in 1924. They also rejected claims that the certification charged massive fees stating that the monthly income from Halal certification was only Rs. 150,000 out of which Rs. 130,000 are spent as administrative costs. All accounts of the ACJU have been audited and presented to relevant organisations and even publically released to media via advertisements, they said.
The move comes after months of anti-Halal protests by the Bodu Bala Sena, which held massive rallies and called for the boycott of Halal products. The Bodu Bala Sena had demanded that the Halal Certification should be withdrawn by the end of March, ahead of the Sinhalese New Year festivities celebrated by millions of Buddhists.
“Since the Halal Certification has been misunderstood, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama has decided to request the manufacturers who have already obtained the certification to confine the certification to the products offered for sale to the Muslim community only,” said organisation President M.I.M. Rizwe.
Recalling the history of Halal, Rizwe emphasised that the certification process was started to clarify the interpretation of Halal, maintain it for the Muslim population, and provide a standardisation mechanism that could be used to promote exports to Muslim countries. The voluntary nature of the certification was also reiterated.
A Cabinet committee has also been appointed to look into the controversy and Rizwe insisted they would extend full cooperation and make any necessary compromise to maintain the peace and stability of Sri Lanka. Several rounds of talks have already been held and the ACJU members present at the press conference noted that they would make any compromise to ensure the sustained communal harmony of Sri Lanka.
ACJU members explained that in all countries other than Singapore and Thailand, Halal certification is done without government overview. Even in Singapore and Thailand, certification is done with the involvement of Muslim intellectuals and community leaders, they pointed out, adding that there is no illegality in the current local system.
When asked whether they would agree for Halal to come under a Government organisation, they noted that it could be done. The decision to call on businesses to make two products was arrived at after extensive discussions with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom the ACJU thanked for his support.