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Cenbet must not misrepresent the role of Jakim in Halal certification

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The Young Professionals are perturbed to read the public statement of MCA-linked non-governmental organisation Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet : Jakim certification not for premises, The Malay Mail Online, dated 30 December 2016) criticising the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) for allegedly penalising halal-certified eateries allowing diners who bring in non-halal certified food into their premises (Cenbet: Jakim certification not for premises, The Malay Mail Online, December 30, 2016).

According to the press statement, coming on the heels of yet another non-issue that has been made into an issue by the leftist Malaysian media, that of McDonald’s disallowing non-Jakim certified cakes onto their premises, it is not proper of Jakim to restrict patrons from bringing non-halal food and drink unto the premises of a restaurant of any kind that have been certified as serving halal food and drink as such would “only segregate the people along religious lines, especially at a time when there is a need to enhance unity in the face of rising extremism,” Such a statement is the height of the ridiculous and must be strongly condemned by all right thinking Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike. There can be no logical inference of any sort, and certainly by no stretch of the imagination, can the notion that prohibition of foodstuff based on the teachings of a given religion, particularly one that has been declared the religion of our federation (per Article 3(1) of our Constitution) amount to religious segregation.

The statement also echoes a previous and similarly ludicrous, as well as contemptuous one one made by the same NGO in June 2016, when the NGO laughably claimed that having a separate sharia compliant EPF contribution scheme would cause interfaith friction. YP condemned that previous statement by this NGO back then and we condemn this one in the same breadth.

The role of Jakim in our societal landscape is clear. It is a public institution catering to Muslims and their right to practice their faith in accordance with its own requirements. The institution is further authorised by His Royal Highness the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong per his oath of office to uphold the sanctity of Islam in Article 37(1) of and the Fourth Schedule to our Constitution.

Clearly, the reason why interfaith issues are such a problem in Malaysia stem not from the actions of Jakim nor those of any similarly constituted and lawfully existing federal or state Islamic institutions present within our nation. It is rather because so-called civil society organisations such as Cenbet exist who, rather than constructively engaging with their Muslim counterparts about any particular issue concerning Islam, choose to ignore Muslim sensitivities by misrepresenting Jakim’s role in the public sphere and making unreasonable demands behind the cloak of preventing extremism.

Cenbet’s demand that non-halal foodstuff be allowed on halal certified eateries and restaurants, for one, disrespects the sensitivities of Muslims who frequent such places, on the premisethat they have been certified halal and thus are free from non-halal elements. This is a blatant attack on the right of freedom of religion of Muslims in Malaysia, protected as this right is by Article 11(1) of the Constitution.

How can an attack on the right of a religious group to abide by their own religious dietary laws in any way contribute towards enhancing unity, moderation and good governance? How is a better tomorrow achieved by lack of sensitivity for the differing dietary requirements of a particular given faith, in this instance, Islam? Per our previous statement concerning Cenbet, YP reiterates its condemnation of the organisation as one that has a corrosive effect on intercommunal relations inMalaysia.

YP further demands that Cenbet immediately withdraw the offending statement against Jakim, and issue an immediate apology thereto. YP also reiterates that Cenbet should be investigated by the relevant authorities for furthering racial and religious tension caused by its previous press statement regarding the EPF sharia contribution scheme in June 2016 coupled with this latest statement denouncing Jakim issued by the same organisation.

* Young Professionals (YP) are a group of Malaysian professionals from across the social strata and political spectrum who believe in the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and social contract.

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