Cenbet: Halal certification should be for food only, not premises

Gan-Ping-Sieu

KUALA LUMPUR: The Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) has waded into the “halal cake” controversy, saying the Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) halal certification should apply only to food served in F&B outlets and not food brought into the premises.

In a statement released today, Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu said Jakim should not penalise halal-certified eateries that allow diners who bring in non-halal certified food into their premises.

“There is no such thing as halal or non-halal premises,” Gan said.

The controversy came about after McDonald’s Malaysia yesterday confirmed that only certified halal cakes were allowed into its chain of restaurants, adding that the policy was in compliance with guidelines issued by Jakim for halal certification.

“As a company that offers only halal-certified products, we implement a ‘no outside food policy’ to ensure that all products served and consumed at our restaurants are halal.

“In the case of ‘birthday parties’ at McDonald’s, we have made an exception to allow customers to bring in their own birthday cakes as part of their celebration, provided that the cakes are certified halal,” McDonald’s had said in a statement.

Cenbet, however, argued that while eateries had the right to ban patrons from bringing in outside food, the decision should be based on commercial considerations and not whether the food was halal-certified or not.

“In this respect, Jakim should not overstep its boundary by accrediting premises instead of food,” Gan said.

“It should also not subject food operators to white terror. Doing so would be an abuse of power.

“This will open the floodgates for more areas to be classified along halal and non-halal lines such as public transportation, schools, housing areas and healthcare.

“This will only segregate the people along religious lines, especially at a time when there is a need to enhance unity in the face of rising extremism.”

Jakim told FMT its halal guidelines were aimed at preventing food from getting mixed up and to stave off any doubts about the halal standard of the restaurants.

“The food that enters halal-certified premises must also be halal,” said Jakim halal hub division director Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee.

He said it was the responsibility of the halal-certified restaurant to ensure the guidelines were followed.

Cenbet, meanwhile, noted that earlier, a fast food outlet had to replace the word “hotdog” from its menu to qualify for Jakim’s halal certification. There was also controversy over Risda’s (Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority) plan to have its own halal logo for Muslim products.

“It is time those in power step up and display political will and not fall into the temptation of political pandering at the expense of dividing the people further,” said Gan.