Saturday, March 6, 2021

Christmas wishes allowed but not for display on halal-certified premises, products, says Jakim

The government's halal authority says there is no specific prohibition on the use of greetings for non-Muslim celebrations.

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The Department of Islamic Development, or Jakim, has clarified that it has not set any rule prohibiting the use of greetings such as “Merry Christmas” on products it certifies as halal.

Jakim said the use of such greetings is allowed but should not be displayed at halal-certified outlets or on products bearing the “halal” logo.

This was after an officer from the department’s communications unit confirmed to MalaysiaNow the prohibition by referring to a manual on halal certification.

But Jakim in a statement said the report was inaccurate.

“Festive greetings on products are permitted if they are not to be displayed on premises which have halal certification or on products bearing the halal logo.

“There is no prohibition on non-Islamic celebrations in the Manual on Procedures For Halal Malaysia Certification (Domestic),” the department said in a statement, responding to a report by MalaysiaNow.

The document was cited by a spokesman in Jakim, who told MalaysiaNow to attribute his comments to its communications unit.

Jakim later said the document cited was for the purpose of applicants and holders of the Halal Malaysia certificate.

MalaysiaNow earlier reported about a bakery which could not fulfil a customer’s request for “Merry Christmas” to be written on a cake he had ordered for delivery to a friend.

Instead, the cake was delivered with the words “Happy Holidays”.

The bakery owner said it was because he had to abide by the rules set by Jakim as part of the application process for getting halal certification.

“The bakery was not wrong as it is part of the regulations,” an officer from Jakim’s communications unit told MalaysiaNow earlier.

He cited a labelling rule stated in Jakim’s manual on the procedures leading towards halal certification.

“Labelling and advertising of products and services should not involve the use of any religious or spiritual passage, symbol or noun such as the names of Allah, sunnah, idols and the like,” according to the document sighted by MalaysiaNow.

The “Merry Christmas” greeting has been a subject of debate in Malaysia, with some Muslim preachers claiming Muslims are prohibited from using the expression as it is a veneration of Christ.

Jakim is legally empowered as the sole authority to issue halal certification for food and goods as well as eateries nationwide.

In the past, critics had questioned several conditions imposed by the department on food manufacturers and franchises seeking halal certification, including prohibiting certain names from being used on the product.

Popular pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s and fast food franchise A&W were forced to rename their popular products due to a requirement by Jakim that words such as “dog” and “beer” are not used on their menu.

Auntie Anne’s renamed its “pretzel dog” as “pretzel sausage”, while A&W was forced to change the names of two popular dishes for which it is known worldwide: Coney Dog and Root Beer, which were renamed as Chicken (or Beef) Coney and RB.

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