By Tan Poh Kheng
Over the past two years this country has been constantly dragged into the whirlpool of “halal” and “non-halal” controversies.
Everything has to be “halal” certified, from Rayani Air to KTM trains, supermarket trolleys, sausages to the just concluded hoohah over cakes brought into McDonald’s outlets and halal toilets, among many other things, conceivable or inconceivable.
The latest to join the ever-growing line-up is the Made-in-China paint brushes allegedly made of pig bristles, as revealed by Berita Harian last week, just as we were ushering in the Year of Rooster.
We have a thousand and one kinds of paint brushes on sale in the market, and it is nothing new that those manufactured in China could contain pig bristles.
Such brushes have been put on the shelves of hardware stores across this country without any problem for the past half a century.
Consumers across all ethnic backgrounds have patronised the shops and bought the products without even bothering about the materials used to produce them.
Paint brushes serve a wide range of purposes. We have brushes made of sheep and pig bristles, some hard, some soft, but they all have their individual uses.
To paint a wall, the soft sheep bristle brush is a primary option. Nevertheless, some professional painters prefer the more durable and firm brushes which are easier to clean, and they are almost invariably made of pig bristles.
After Berita Harian’s untimely revelation, the domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism ministry’s enforcement team started to raid hardware shops and supermarkets in the Klang Valley, confiscating over 90 questionable brushes while taking the statements of employees at an unprecedented level of efficiency.
We have no idea on which federal law they did this to confiscate non-halal products sold in hardware stores and supermarkets. Are there any laws to ban non-Muslims from selling non-halal products in their shops in the first place?
The domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism ministry’s enforcement director Mohd Roslan Mahayudin said the ministry’s operation was meant to protect the rights of Muslim consumers.
The thing is, by confiscating pig bristle paint brushes, the ministry has been denying non-Muslim consumers of their rights. The domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism ministry should serve all Malaysians and not any particular ethnic community.
Muslim consumers uncomfortable with pig bristle paint brushes can always stay away from them, or be warned to use with caution by means of a non-halal label. Prohibiting the shops from selling non-halal brushes contravenes the principle of fair and free trading.
Such excessive enforcement reflects the stark reality of the country moving down the road of pan-Islamisation. The emergence of various Islamic policies has not only violated the Federal Constitution but also the rights of non-Muslim citizens.
The enforcement authority’s mindless actions have opened a crack line in the country’s religious and racial sensitivity, and could potentially become the culprit that kills our hard-earned ethnic harmony.
The inundation of halal issues has erected one after another a wall in Malaysian society, segregating Muslims from non-Muslims at the expense of our invaluable inter-racial harmony.
This will dictate the future direction of the country and the government is morally obliged to look into it seriously.