The Bodhu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force)that has been conducting a widespread anti-Muslim campaign has achieved a significant victory over the controversial Halal Certification issue.
The Sri Lankan Government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has caved into the chief demand made by the Ethno-religious Fascist Organization Bodhu Bala Sena that the Halal certification process should be abolished.
The Govt in turn exerted high level pressure in different forms on the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU)to Voluntarily terminate the Halal certification process undertaken by it.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama is the apex religious body of Islamic Theologians that provides religious and community leadership to the Sri Lankan Muslim Community.
The ACJU is responsible for issuing Halal certificates for certain products in Sri Lanka.Halal meaning permissible or lawful in Arabic is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law. The opposite of this word is haraam.
Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared. The foods addressed are mostly types of meat/animal tissue.
The current scheme where the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) issues “Halal” certificates to meat products and other selected consumer items has been objected to strongly by organizations such as the Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS).
Consequent to the BBS campaign the Government decided that the Halal certification process should be terminated.This decision taken by the upper echelons of the Rajapaksa regime was however not publicised officially but was unofficially communicated to the ACJU.
Thereafter the ACJU was under intensive pressure to “Voluntarily discontinue” the Halal certification process. The Govt sought to convey an impression that it was not bowing down to the BBS and that the decision was made independently by the ACJU.
The ACJU under heavy pressure was in Mafia parlance made an offer that it had no choice other than to accept.Insult was added to injury when the ACJU was compelled to project an impression that it had taken this decision on its own.
The ACJU has officially announced at a press conference held in Colombo on Monday March 11th 2013 that it would not be issuing Halal labels for products marketed locally in Sri Lanka. The ACJU President Al Shaikh Rizvi Mufti was associated in the media meet with Buddhist priests (Not of the BBS) and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.
The ACJU leader when asked as to why he was making the announcement at this time replied cryptically that the organization had been under a lot of pressure.
The decision to suspend the Halal certification scheme came in the wake of a widespread campaign conducted by organizations such as the Bodhu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force)demanding the abolition of the scheme.The BBS does not want Buddhists to buy or consume products bearing Halal certified labels.
Earlier in a compromise solution, the ACJU offered to stop issuing Halal certicates to non – Muslims and also requested the Govt to take over the task of issuing Halal certificates.
The Govt however declined to issue Halal certificates.It also appointed a committee headed by former Prime minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake to delve into the Halal and other related issues and make recommendations to resolve the problem.
The Bodhu Bala Sena however continued with its Anti-Halal campaign.The Leader of the BBS Ven Kirama Vimalajothy Thera stated at a rally in Maharagama that the issuance of Halal certificates should end on or before March 31st this year. In a provocative speech replete with anti –Muslim sentiment Vimalajothy Thera said that he wanted to eat non –Halal Milk rice (Kiribath) for the April new year this time.
His deputy and BBS general secretary Ven.Galabodaattha Gnanasara Thera reiterated the March 31st deadline at a meeting in Malabe and warned of massive protest demonstrations if the Halal certificates were issued after March 31st.
Meanwhile Defence and Urban Development secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had several rounds of discussions with both BBS and ACJU representatives .Associated with him was former Justice minister and Presidental adviser Milinda Moragoda.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who is closely associated with the Bodhu Bala Sena told Muslim representatives that the Bodhu Bala Sena was insisting on the Halal certification scheme being discontinued as a non-negotiable issue. He said that the BBS would not press on other demands relating to the Muslim community if the Halal certification scheme was scrapped.
There was however a noticeable change in the approach of the Govt after Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa took an active interest in the Halal certificate crisis.The Rajapaksa regime did not want to confront or irk the Bodhu Bala Sena over this matter.
It reached a decision influenced greatly by the input of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who is the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and regarded as the second most powerful man in the country.
The Govt now wanted to end the current scheme where the ACJU issues Halal certificates for products before the BBS imposed March 31st deadline drew near.After intense pressure the ACJU gave in and made the announcement that the Halal Logo will not appear on products catering to the domestic market.While saying the Halal Logo wont appear on Products locally the ACJU also says it will issue Halal certificates on a voluntary basis for those desiring it for export purposes.There wont be any charge for it.
Halal certificates will not be issued compulsorily for Products in the Domestic market. Products catering to the Export market however will be allowed to have Halal certificates.Outlets catering to Tourists will also be allowed to sell Halal certified products with Logo.The Govt fears that the removal of Halal labels for such products could result in a heavy drop in sales abroad. So what is sauce for the Domestic goose is not sauce for the Export gander.
Products already in stores with Halal certificates or stocks stored already for distribution will not be withdrawn. They can be sold but there wont be any fresh supplies with Halal certificates.
The ACJU can continue issuing Halal certificates for export products but will not be allowed to charge any fees for rendering this service if requested.Obtaining such certificates is not mandatory
In a pathetic face saving gesture the ACJU’s Rizvi Mufti is now saying that the Halal process has not been abolished still because the ACJU will be continuing to issue Halal certificates for export products.
To cushion the blow the Govt is also likely to state that discontinuing issuance of Halal certificates is only a “temporary”arrangement that will be in force until an alternative scheme satisfying both the BBS and ACJU is formulated. Until then the issuing of Halal certificates would be suspended “indefinitely”.
The ACJU has also been asked to devise an alternative scheme to resolve the issue in a way acceptable to both sides. As no time limit will be imposed for an alternative scheme to be formulated the situation would be one where in practice the issuing of Halal certificates ceases locally while “efforts” will be on indefinitely to devise an alternative.
By resorting to this device the Govt hopes to appease the Bodhu Bala Sena and get the BBS to call off its threatened campaign. Although the Muslim community would be hurt and angered by this move the regime hopes to contain Muslim resentment with the help of Muslim ministers and MP’s in the Govt.
It is however a moot point as to whether all sections of the Muslim community would meekly comply with the Govt directives like the ACJU or Muslim political leaders.It is learnt that there is a groundswell of opposition to such a decision within Muslim religious and political circles.The Govt may run into stiff Muslim resistance in spite of its Muslim puppets in Parliament.
There are also doubts whether the neo-fascist Bodhu Bala Sena after having tasted victory on the Halal issue would call off its anti-Muslim campaign or whether it would expand it with renewed energy.The reality is that the BBS has succeeded in getting the Halal certification process abolished in Sri Lanka.
(This is an updated version of an article posted earlier on this Blog)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org