New Delhi/Lucknow: It appears that in Uttar Pradesh, which is led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Islamophobia is reigning supreme. Islamophobic elements are even hurting the interests of the country with their sheer madness. The most recent example of this is the prohibition on food products being certified halal, which could hurt India in the 3.5 trillion-dollar global halal trade market, especially in the Islamic world. The UP government’s ill-advised decision to outlaw halal certificates will send the wrong message to the halal consumer market.
How it has happened. On November 17, an FIR was lodged at the Hazratganj Police Station in Lucknow on a complaint by one BJP supporter. He accused Halal India Private Limited Chennai, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust Delhi, Halal Council of India Mumbai, and Jamiat Ulama Maharashtra of issuing halal certificates without any authority for some products to increase their sales. He said these organizations allegedly did not follow prescribed standards while issuing these certificates and accused them of manipulating the religious sentiments of Muslims. He also linked these organizations to alleged terror funding.
Apart from these organizations, the FIR lists as accused other unknown manufacturing companies and their managers and owners; others involved in “anti-national conspiracy”; others who are “funding notified terrorist organizations and organizations involved in anti-national activities”; and people who are “conspiring to incite large-scale riots by messing with public faith.”
The complainant alleged that this was done to harm the company and lower sales for the companies that did not receive these certificates. “I believe that these unjustified gains are going to anti-social and anti-national groups; this is a criminal act,” he asserted.
After the FIR, the UP government acted with lightning speed, and within 24 hours, it unleashed a crackdown against halal items in the state. On November 18, the state Food Security and Drug Administration (FSDA) department, which is directly under Adityanath’s ministerial control, issued an order prohibiting the production, sale, storage, and distribution of halal-certified products in the state with immediate effect, citing “public health” as justification. This order was issued one day after the FIR was filed. However, this list did not include food items intended for export.
According to FSDA commissioner Anita Singh, labels for a number of food products, including dairy products, sugar, baked goods, edible oils, peppermint oil, and salty ready-to-eat snacks, mention that the product is halal certified.
The charges listed in the FIR included criminal conspiracy, inciting hatred between groups, extortion, speaking in public with the purpose of offending someone’s religious sentiments, forging important security documents, forging documents with the intent to deceive, and passing off a forged document or electronic record as authentic.
According to the commissioner in the order copy that agency ANI tweeted, only the competent authorities listed in Section 29 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, have the authority to determine the quality of food products. They do this by applying the standards outlined in the legislation.
As stated by Anita Singh, the halal certification of food products was a parallel system that led to confusion and went against the fundamental purpose of the relevant laws. The UP government stated that misbranding food was also illegal under Section 52 of the 2006 law, which carries a fine of up to Rs 3 lakh.
Speaking to a website, two businesses that are currently facing a criminal case related to halal certification charged that the complainant, Sharma, was propagating false information about halal certification and, as a result, undermining national interest because these products support the country’s trade and economy.
The head of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, advocate Niyaz Ahmad Farooqui, responded to the controversy by telling Islamic Voice that the accusations made against the organization were “baseless” and intended to “tarnish” its reputation. Legal action would be taken to repudiate the false information.
According to him, the Jamiat Trust certification process complies with government regulations mandating that all Halal certification bodies be registered by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies under the Quality Council of India. It also aligns with the requirements of manufacturers for both export and domestic distribution in India.
He also alleged that certain individuals are propagating false claims against halal certification, which directly undermines national interests, and added that halal trade stands as a significant $3.5 trillion industry, and India benefits from its promotion in exports and tourism, particularly with the country’s crucial trade partners in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries and Southeast Asia.
Farooqui stated that the manufacturers and retailers of these cross-community products would be impacted by the Uttar Pradesh ban on halal-certified goods. “There are other items involved here, not meat,” he remarked and pointed out, “Our Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, endorses the fact that Indian companies must obtain such certification, as the global demand for halal-certified products is robust.”
In his reaction, Mufti Habeeb Yusuf Qasmi, president of the Halal Council of India, stated that the reason behind the controversy surrounding halal food was that people began to perceive everything through the narrow lens of Hinduism and Islam. “Halal is about purity and good hygiene. This has to do with food, not Hinduism or Islam,” he declared.
Yusuf Qasmi emphasized that false information regarding halal certificates was not beneficial to the country because these certifications facilitated trade, particularly exports. Even though “vegetarian” products like oil, soap, toothpaste, beauty products, and honey don’t need such certifications, Sharma claimed in the FIR that halal certification could be found on them, and this was hurting other communities’ business interests.
Halal certification was not merely a requirement for importing countries but also for tourists visiting India, particularly those seeking halal-certified products during their stay, he said.
In the FIR, Sharma said halal certification was also found on “vegetarian” items such as beauty products, oil, soap, toothpaste, and honey, even though they don’t require such certifications.
The business interests of other communities were being hurt, Sharma claimed. Rubbishing his allegations, Yusuf Qasmi underlined that Halal certification had in fact benefitted the businesses of non-Muslim firms.
“This is false. Venky’s, Zorabian, and Godrej (companies certified by the Halal Council of India) are all run by non-Muslims,” he cited.
After the controversy broke out, the Jamiat Trust also issued an official statement saying that depending on the qualifications of the certifying authorities, it was a matter of preference for people and manufacturers to have particular certifications for their own satisfaction. “It guarantees the availability of need-based products in the market and saves a significant number of consumers from using products that they do not want for a variety of reasons. It is okay for people to choose not to use these products.
Farooque claimed that Jamiat’s halal certificates are globally recognized by different governments and authorities all across the world, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, South
Korea, Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind Halal Trust is a member of the World Halal Food Council, he added.
Note that the word “halal” refers to what is allowed or lawful under Islamic law and is commonly associated with Muslim dietary customs, particularly those pertaining to meat consumption. However, the word can also refer to other aspects of life, such as employment, income, and the ingredients used in food, cosmetics, and medications.