In the past couple of months, India has witnessed waves of hateful, anti-Muslim propaganda become a part of everyday discourse. Conspiracy theories by far-right Hindu outfits attempt to sow seeds of fear against the Muslim community. After “love jihad” and “thook jihad”, the narrative has shifted against “Halal”.

A nationwide campaign for a ban on Halal meat and food products by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti has resulted in two emerging narratives — the sale of Halal meat is a step toward making India an “Islamic state” and companies carrying Halal products, especially those that have Muslim founders, are “anti-Hindu”.

On March 30, Harinder S Sikka, Group Director of Strategic Business at Piramal Enterprises, shared a photo of an alleged ‘Halal policy’ document displayed at Himalaya Company’s Pune factory. Along with the photo, Sikka shared his own interpretation of the policy. While promoting a boycott of Halal, he insinuated that a company holding a Halal certificate meant that its workforce is Muslim and it uses beef extracts in the products.

Soon after this tweet, Rashmi Samant, a former president of Oxford University Students’ Union, tweeted the same document saying, “I like my products cruelty free. So no Himalaya until it says no Halal”. Atul Mishra, the founder of The Frustrated Indian, tweeted the document while questioning Himalaya about its Halal certificate.

Other right-wing personalities, such as actor and BJP MP Paresh Rawal and BJP leader Amar Prasad Reddy, also called for a boycott of Himalaya and Halal products.

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Hate campaign against Muslim-owned businesses

The attack on Himalaya Company and its subsidiaries is not new. For the past two years, consistent disinformation campaigns have been used against the company with various false claims.

In 2020, a viral message claimed that Himalaya’s founder funds terrorist groups. That same year, another video was viral where it was claimed that post-Babri judgement, the founder of Himalaya asked Muslims to take control over the judiciary, police force, etc. Last year, there were at least three instances of recurring pieces of disinformation used to target the company, including selectively targeting Himalaya for using gelatine in capsule tablets in the past. Alt News has debunked multiple cases of false news related to Himalaya that can be read on our website in detail.

Himalaya is now being targeted for its Halal policy despite the fact that a majority of FMCG companies also get the certification.

What are Halal and Halal-certified products?

According to Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation (JUHF), which provides halal certification to Indian brands, ‘Halal’ is an Islamic term that means lawful, permissible or legal. BBC defines Halal food as food that adheres to Islamic dietary standards.

Alt News reached out to Wasim Akhtar Shaikh, the Halal coordinator and Shariah Auditor at JUHF, who told us, “Halal is an Arabic word that means permissible and permissible means a lot of things. It can mean something you can wear or something you can drink, things you are allowed to say, etc. Halal is not limited to eating and drinking, it simply means it is permitted in Islam. There is also an opposite word to Halal called ‘Haram’, which means unlawful or prohibited.”

He further added, “When it comes to food, Halal can be divided into two parts Halal food and Halal meat. Again, Halal food means food that is permissible and Halal meat means, animals that can be eaten in Islam. It can be a goat, chicken, camel, etc. These permissible animals are simply slaughtered in the Islamic way by reciting the Shahada, there’s nothing additional in it. By eating Halal meat one will not become Muslim, it is a myth.”

“Now, if the product is a medicine or a cosmetic cream and is Halal-certified, it means that this product does not contain any non-Halal/Haram items. A non-Halal item can be pork, pork extract, or alcohol. These items are not permissible in Islam hence, they’re not considered Halal. Again, it is a myth that Halal means only Muslims have made this product, or there is some meat in it. Take the example of rice, they’re produced by our farmer brothers. It is completely a vegetarian item considered Halal by us. Why? Because it does not have any non-Halal items added to it and it is permissible to eat rice in Islam,” he concluded.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also explains the meaning of Halal and the nuances involved with it. We recommend that our readers read the full text for a better understanding of the term.

Is Halal certification limited to Muslim-owned businesses?

On the website of Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation, one can check the ‘Halal status‘ of various companies. It has big household names such as Adani Wilmar Ltd, Parle and Tata Consumers Product on its list. These products range from castor oil to biscuits to even tea leaves. Therefore, the claim that only Muslim-owned companies or companies that have only Muslim employees have Halal-certified products is ludicrous and certifiably false. Halal is a food standard certificate that helps Muslims to figure out whether a food product is permissible for them to eat. Halal simply means what is permissible for Muslims. It doesn’t mean that it is non-permissible for non-Muslims.

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Large companies export their products to hundreds of countries across the globe and are required to comply with the rules and regulations of the importing countries. In most cases, Halal certification is obtained to expand the business to OIC countries and Gulf nations. Just in 2015, Saudi Arabia’s import value of Halal foods amounted to 21.54 billion US dollars, followed by Malaysia with 14.96 billion US dollars worth of Halal food imports. The global Halal market is big and is attractive for Indian companies. This has been very clearly highlighted in the statement issued by Himalaya regarding the recent misleading campaign against its products.

Himalaya is not the only target

In 2021, another Muslim-owned business, Bengaluru-based iD Fresh Foods, became a victim of a malicious campaign. Social media forwards claimed that the company “only hires Muslims” and is “halal-certified”. Despite multiple clarifications from iD Fresh Foods, it continues to remain a target. Earlier in March, in order to counter disinformation campaigns, the company started sharing live video feeds from its factory in Bengaluru.

However, the ones facing the brunt of the hateful campaigns are economically backward Muslim business owners. Recently. the Karnataka government banned Muslim vendors from temple fairs by citing the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 2002. This was after far-right Hindu groups demanded a ban.

Similarly, in their latest campaign to ban halal-certified products, Hindutva outfits physically attacked a Muslim meat seller in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district. In Jan 2021, a Muslim shoe seller was detained after members of a right-wing group accused him of selling ‘Thakur’ shoes. In October last year, in Gujarat, 100-odd people protested against the inauguration of a hotel because the owners were Muslims.

In August 2021, two Muslim brothers who ran a roadside food stall in Agra were harassed and their stall was vandalised. That same month, a Muslim bangle seller was thrashed by locals for allegedly concealing his identity while selling bangles. He was later booked under harassment charges.

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About the Author

Kalim is a journalist with a keen interest in tech, misinformation, culture, etc