Every development in Kashmir whatever social, political or religious spins with a counter-argument. Few week ago, the formation of “Jammu and Kashmir Halal Certification Board” comprised of renowned Islamic scholars from different thoughts of school under the banner of Mutahida Majlis Ulama evoked a mixed response on Social Media, where netizens designated it as a positive step.
By:Bilal Bashir Bhat
Every development in Kashmir whatever social, political or religious spins with a counter-argument. Few week ago, the formation of “Jammu and Kashmir Halal Certification Board” comprised of renowned Islamic scholars from different thoughts of school under the banner of Mutahida Majlis Ulama evoked a mixed response on Social Media, where netizens designated it as a positive step. Contrary, others pronounce this development with ‘derogatory’ terms like “molvinization of food,” and “promotion of clergy or papacy culture” which according to them Islam neither permits.
After going through the argument and counter-arguments on Social Media following I filed a story on it. I felt uneasy to give my opinion over there. This short column you are about to read will perhaps give a brief understanding of the desideratum of Board.
Halal means ‘permissible or lawful’. Halal is related to Islam and its dietary laws specifically related to meat processed and prepared as per the requirements of the laws. Contrary, Haram means ‘prohibited or forbidden’. There are several products forbidden in Islam, e.g. alcohol, pork and meat without halal process.
Most of the governments in Islamic countries issue halal certification for import and export of products to ensure the supply of Halal food. In India there is no such certification process on the government level, though, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issues certification for the processed foods but does not issue any form of halal certification. As such, there is no censor of products to check the validity of Halal and Haram imported in India or exported within its states or Territories.
In absence of such certification authority, Halal certification is issued by many private companies in India, which marks the food or products permissible for almost Fourteen percent Muslim population of the country’s total population.
With almost Twenty-Five percent of the world’s total population, the halal food market constitutes about nineteen percent of the global food market. Besides meat products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, the product manufacturing companies also need halal certification as these companies use animal by-products. Considering the high demand for their Ayurvedic medicines in Arab countries Patanjali Ayurveda Limited has had to obtain the Halal Certification from different Muslim countries to export their products over there which even triggered a controversy in India.
In our part of the world, Jammu and Kashmir, where Eighty-Five percent majority is of non-vegetarian, annually as per the officials consumes 51,000 tones of mutton of which 21,000 tones is imported from outside. That is another part of the story that this is the reason for hypertension, obesity, rise of cholesterol, heart ailments, gout, kidney stones, liver ailments and a host of other diseases.
Considering such a whopping consumption of meat and related products, over the last few years, mechanical slaughterhouse cutting and packing plants and manufacturing units are coming up in Jammu and Kashmir at large. As I said, there is no such mechanism to issue such certifications at state level. Thus making it inevitable for local civil societies to ensure Halal practice of food on the same pattern non-government forums and organizations in the mainland are differentiating Halal and Haram like Halal India Private Limited, Halal Certification Services India Private Limited, Jamiat Ulama-E-Maharashtra- A state unit of Jamiat Ulama-E-Hind and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind Halal Trust.
The newly formed “Jammu & Kashmir Halal Certification Board” comprising religious scholars in Kashmir, is indeed a need of hour, especially at a place where as many as eighty-five percent of the majority of public members follow the religion, Islam. The Board will also for sure boost the young entrepreneurs to export and import the related products and will ensure the Halal food for locals too.
However, the concept is beyond the jurisdiction of Ulama who though, have due right to patronage the board but the maiden committee should have at least comprised of subject expertise like qualified food technologists, chemical engineers, person deals with the same businesses, etc. who can scrutinize the sources of ingredients, examining the entire supply chain, chemical examination. Even the Board should look forward to set up a Laboratory for testing purposes in future.
The maiden press release of Jammu & Kashmir Halal Certification Board reads “Board will personally inspect the slaughterhouse, plants and food processing and manufacturing outlets here and will consequently issue Halal certificate to them after meeting the criteria.” This sentence exhibits the seriousness of Ulama who look forward to personally monitor processing of food, however in absence of above-stated expertise, it would be indeed injustice to the cause, which involves the religious sentiments of people and would be par with the credibility of a person watching TV or listing the Radio and announcing the moon sighting.
Importantly, in a Muslim majority place as in Kashmir slaughtering of animals is done by Muslims itself and is a major relief for the masses in general and the newly formed board in particular. However, the focus of the board should be to check the imported products.
Finally, yet importantly, a valid question has been raised, if the concerned have been asked to contact the board for Halal certification, does it means who holds no such certification will be allowed to deal with prohibited or forbidden products?
Bilal Bashir Bhat is a Kashmir based journalist an be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org