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Monday, December 28, 2020

No more ‘Merry Christmas’? Really, Jakim?

 

In a move that shocked Malaysians, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) deputy director-general (Operations) Abdul Aziz Jusoh recently released a statement claiming that halal-certified businesses should not display their products if it had a non-Islamic festival greeting.

This is surprising even for Jakim. Does Jakim really need to put up more red tape for
small businesses during an economic recession?

How can a simple “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Deepavali” message have the power to revoke your halal-certified status?

To comprehend this better, perhaps we need to dive deeper into what the halal
certification actually means.

Halal is an Arabic word that means permissible. A halal-certified product means that the product is acceptable for consumption in accordance with Islamic law.

The halal certification goes beyond the issues of just pork and alcohol, it also encompasses other areas of food preparation, such as slaughtering, cleanliness and safety.

When a Muslim shopper enters your store, they can feel safe knowing that the product they want to buy has met the stringent needs of being halal certified.

Does a festive greeting really have the power to undo the entire halal process?

Would Jakim chastise the many Muslim world leaders, including our own King, for publicly sending Christmas greetings to Christians?

Jakim may not realise this, but if this policy were to take effect, even Muslim business owners would suffer as a consequence. Not allowing businesses to capitalise on religious festivals, is undoubtedly a wasted opportunity.

If you were a shopper looking for Christmas deals, which store would you be more
likely to patronise?

One that has Christmas greetings, decorations and music? Or one that did the exact opposite? The answer is obvious.

This is why malls all over the world go to extremes to get their shoppers in a festive mood. They know that holiday shopping is big business.

This new ruling by Jakim will affect a business owner’s ability to market their products during the most lucrative retail season.

Does Jakim not realise that we are headed towards a terrifying global recession, and that all of us need to work together to try and help stimulate the economy?

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of this, is how once again, Malaysians are left in the dark.

On Twitter, the questions were coming in fast.

One user wrote, “So if I have a certified halal cake shop, and I intend to promote my business on social media by posting images of cakes with ‘Merry Christmas’, I would have to pull back my ad? What is the rationale behind this?”

Others wanted to know if big corporations like Starbucks would have their halal licences revoked if they were to display Christmas greetings.

Also, because this policy is not actually based on any specific guideline in the halal certification manual, what’s stopping Jakim from going further in the future.

Today it’s festival greetings, tomorrow, will it be the decorations? The music? Where does it end?

Only God knows now.

Jai Naeer is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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