The recent McDonald’s ruling on birthday cakes is preposterous. In insisting on halal certification for cakes brought to its restaurants, did the fast food chain consider that not everyone brings a cake bought from a shop?
There are mothers who bake their children’s birthday cakes for parties at McDonald’s. And there are those who order them from people like me, who enjoy baking for friends.
So what are parents to do if McDonald’s wants them to provide a halal certificate for one of my cakes? Or does my being Malay and Muslim spare me from the need to apply to Jakim for a halal certificate?
I am not in business and I’m not interested in venturing into commercial cake making. Why should I apply for a halal certificate for my hobby? I bake for pleasure because I love cakes. I don’t cook with lard, and few bakeries use lard anyway, because healthier vegetable shortenings are available.
I get my ingredients from reputable supermarkets or the corner shop down the road. The ingredients are the usual ones used in cake-making, like eggs, flour, butter and sugar. I sometimes add chocolate, vanilla essence or extras like sultanas and almonds. I have no idea what a halal chicken looks like, but I know that pigs do not lay eggs. Butter is from cow’s milk and I don’t believe that any brand of butter on the market has been contaminated with porcine DNA.
I am not fussed if a non-Muslim was the last person to handle the packaging of the sultanas or almonds. I am more concerned about making sure the ingredients are safe for consumption and have not, for instance, been produced or packed in a filthy, rat-infested factory.
As a chemist, I know that packaging materials like plastic and cardboard are not derived from pigs or any other animal considered unclean in Islam.
One wonders whether pressure was put on McDonald’s by a person or a group of persons. But perhaps, in these economically straitened times, McDonald’s has seen its sales drop and wants people to buy its cakes to make up for the shortfall.
When I have a pot-luck party, I don’t demand halal certification for food that my guests bring. Most Malaysians are aware of the dietary and religious requirements of their fellow Malaysians.
Has halal political correctness gone overboard? Will we one day see moral police invading houses to ensure that we are eating only halal food? When will common sense prevail?
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist
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