After McDonald’s halal cake policy, group says Jakim certification not for premises

The federal Islamic authority’s halal certification should apply only to an eatery’s food and not its premises, civil society group Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) said today.

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Just a day after fast food chain McDonald’s policy of allowing only halal-certified birthday cakes into its outlets attracted controversy, Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) “should not penalise halal-certified eateries that allow diners who bring in non-halal certified food into their premises”.

“Rightfully, Jakim’s halal certification applies only to food served in F&B outlets. There is no such thing as halal or non-halal premises,” he said in a statement.

Yesterday, McDonald’s confirmed that it allows customers to bring their own birthday cakes as an exception to its “No Outside Food” policy, as long as the cakes are certified to be halal or permissible for consumption by Muslims.

“This condition is critical to preserve the integrity of our halal certification,” the company said, also saying that it was in line with fulfilling requirements for its halal certification.

Cenbet said eateries have the right to ban patrons from bringing in outside food, but asserted that such decisions should be based on commercial considerations instead of whether or not the food is halal certified.

“In this respect, Jakim should not overstep its boundary by accrediting “premises” instead of “food”. It should also not subject food operators to white terror. Doing so would be an abuse of power,” Gan said.

He cautioned that such actions would otherwise open the floodgates for more areas to be divided into halal and non-halal categories such as for public transportation, schools, housing areas and healthcare.

“This will 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,” he said.

While saying that Cenbet holds on to the principle of respecting each other’s religious beliefs and respecting Muslims’ dietary requirements, Gan also said Malaysians should not allow the hijacking of any religion by radical elements for political ends.

“We are especially troubled that a fundamental tenet of Islam—the principle of halal—has become a divisive national discourse over the past few months,” he said, citing cases such as where a food chain had to drop the word “dog” from its menu and the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority’s plans for its own halal logo.

“It is time those in power to step up to the plate and display political will and not fall into the temptation of political pandering at the expense of dividing the people further,” Gan said.