Are Jakim’s guidelines mere suggestions?


As Internet users continue to poke fun at Jakim over the “hot dog” issue, it is doubtful that restaurant owners are laughing too heartily.

The matter became an issue after it was reported that pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s was denied halal certification for several reasons, including having “pretzel dog” on its menu.

Although the Minister in Charge of Islamic Affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, has tried to reduce the establishment’s embarrassment by saying it was all a misunderstanding, Jakim’s guidelines indeed quite clearly state that halal certification could be denied for food products that have in their names “confusing” terms such as “ham,” “bak kut teh”, “bacon”, “beer”, “rum”, “dog” and “char siew”.

These guidelines have been ridiculed by many, including the foreign press and even Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz.

Jamil said there was never any issue over Auntie Anne’s “pretzel dog” and that the restaurant would not be denied halal certification just because it used the name.

“For Auntie Anne’s, it wasn’t a rejection,” he said on Thursday. “It was just a proposal.”

That wasn’t very reassuring. Indeed, KUB Malaysia, which holds the franchise for A&W, has since complained that the authorities were confusing the public.

KUB Vice-President Samad Mohd Shariff has been quoted as saying that any company applying for halal certification from Jakim would be presented with a list of rules to adhere to, including the use of certain names for products.

The big question now is whether Jakim’s guidelines are only suggestions instead of strict rulings. The authorities must clear the air once and for all.

Halal certification is vital for many food and beverage businesses in the country, especially since the Muslim population accounts for more than 60 per cent of Malaysians, not to mention the thousands of Muslim tourists we get each year.

If these businesses cannot make money for lack of halal certificates, they may have to fold. Many people will lose jobs. And that is no laughing matter.

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