COLOMBO – Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka announced on Monday that the halal certification logo will be withdrawn from all local products in the country. The move came after protests by hardline Buddhists in the nation.
Speaking at a joint Press conference after the meeting between the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama (ACJU), the main Muslim organisation responsible for Halal certification, and the Buddhsit clergy, the ACJU said that the Halal logo will be removed from all local products. However, the label will be carried by export products on the request of foreign buyers.
The halal logo will be included on products in tourist and strategic destinations as the country has emerged as a key tourist destination for many Arabs.
Addressing the media, Murshid Moulasar, head of the Halal certification division of the ACJU, said that his organisation decided to remove the logo “in the interest of communal peace and harmony”.
“It has been a unanimous decision to remove the Halal logo from all products in the Sri Lankan market. However, the certification process will continue free of charge to whoever requires it,” said the Muslim body’s spokesperson Moulavi Fazil Farook.
The Halal certification body came under various attacks by an extremist Buddhist party, the Bodu Bala Sena or the Buddhist strength force last month, causing a communal rift between the majority Buddhists who account for 70 per cent and the minority Muslims accounting for 10 per cent in the country. The Buddhist clerical party accused the Muslims in charge of providing the halal certification of channelling their earnings to fund militancy. The ACJU strongly denied the accusations and asked the government to take over the halal certification of products last week. The government, however, declined to do so.
“The decision to make future halal certification free has been due to the accusations levied at us of sponsoring terrorist activities. Although the costs remain unchanged, we will now provide this service free of charge, thanks to several organisations having come forward to bear the costs of the halal certification process,” said Moulavi Farook.
The Bodu Bala Sena last month demanded that all products bearing the halal logo be removed from the market by the end of this month.
However, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said in a Press release on Monday that the market will be given time to effect the changes. “As all manufacturers carry substantial stocks of finished products and packaging material displaying the halal logo, running down these stocks will require a considerable amount of time. As such, until all finished products and packaging material stocks displaying the halal logo are exhausted, the market will have products with the halal logo,” said the Chamber of Commerce. The manufacturers will, however, start changing the packaging immediately to ensure products without the halal logo are available in the market, it said.
The Bodu Bala Sena’s stance towards the Muslim community was condemned by majority of Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
- Qadijah Irshad / 12 March 2013