Halal until proven haram, or the other way round?

Halal until proven haram, or the other way round?
By Zan Azlee

The 2018 national budget that was tabled by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak last month stated that the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) will be allocated RM811 million, which is an increase from 2017’s RM745 million.

Overall, the government has allocated RM1.03 billion for the development and preservation of Islam in Malaysia for 2018. It’s interesting to see how important the religion is to the country just by looking at the amount of money allocated.

But all of the actions taken by Jakim don’t seem to be preserving or developing Islam at all. First of all, they have preachers who don’t seem to understand that Islam is a religion of inclusivity, tolerance and non-compulsion.

Zamihan Mat Zin, the department’s officer and preacher, was recently investigated on charges of sedition after he apparently made a statement saying that the Chinese are dirty and not pure because they did not wash after going to the toilet.

This was in reference to the issue of a laundromat in Johor that had a sign saying that they did not serve non-Muslim customers because of cleanliness issues. The Sultan of Johor eventually put an end to the controversy by saying he would not have any of that in his state.

Currently, there is also a court case going on which involves the usage of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Apparently, the authorities think that the word is only reserved for Malay Muslims and Christian publications in Bahasa Malaysia are not allowed to use it.

It’s funny how they think that an Arabic word that means “God” can only be used exclusively by Malay Muslims. It’s funny because in the Arab world, everyone who speaks Arabic, no matter their religion, uses the word “Allah” to refer to “God”.

And the latest news is that Jakim has offered their expertise to Japan in order to assist them during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. What expertise does Jakim have when it comes to sports and the Olympics, you may ask.

Well, they are saying that they can help Japan make sure that their food is certified halal. Jakim claims that their halal certification is recognised worldwide and is of top-notch quality that everyone sees as a benchmark.

In Malaysia, Jakim is definitely the main authority when it comes to what is halal and haram food. However, the way they try to determine what is halal and haram could be a little bit too complicated.

A simple matter

According to the teachings of Islam, the categorisation of what is halal and haram is actually much simpler than how the authorities make it out to be. What it basically states is that everything is halal unless proven otherwise.

So what it means is that there really is no need for any halal certification for anything. You can actually just consider every single food, or whatever product, to be halal unless you want to go and prove that it isn’t. Simple as that.

What would be considered haram? Anything that would bring harm to oneself if consumed, or meat that was not slaughtered by a Muslim or other People of the Book (Jews and Christians). Other than that, everything else is fair game.

It is even said by many credible Muslim scholars, such as Ma’aalum as-Sunan, that if meat is slaughtered in a country that is predominantly Christian or Jewish, there is no need to doubt if it is halal or not. Any meat can be considered halal without having to find out what the situation is.

In Malaysia, the manipulation of religion is very worrying. Instead of being simple, as Islam actually is, the religious authorities complicate matters. Instead of assuming everything is halal unless it is stated otherwise, they believe that everything is haram unless it is proven to be halal.

When this happens, Islam changes from a religion that promises to make it easy for its believers, to a religion that is strict and troublesome. So how is Jakim actually going to offer its services? It beats me too. I do wonder how they will be going home with me.

Hence, all that money that has been allocated by the government for the development of Islam is really a big waste, because in Malaysia, we are actually moving backwards instead of progressing forward.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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