A Peaceful Compromise on Halal: Charge an Equal National Peace Levy with Every Halal Certificate Payment
Posted on February 26th, 2013
Halal industry is estimated to worth $2.5 trillion world-wide. If nutrition or taste is considered, there is no difference between halal foods and other foods. The certificate guarantees halal compliance to locals, tourists, consumers in export markets and others who profess the faith of Islam. Multiple aspects of this issue should be looked at to come to an objective conclusion before it serious dents peaceful coexistence in this country. Religious, economic, political, nutrition and social aspects are vital considerations. A national view must be maintained to assess these factors. A limited tribal approach will not be conducive to peace.
Islam has a long history in the island. According to credible historical accounts, Muslims as opposed to pre-Islam Arabs were in the island for the past 800 years. However, there was no clear-cut legal impetus to halal certification process until the year 2000. Act number 51 of 2000 authorised the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama to be the sole authority to issue and manage the halal certificate in the island nation. The political context was the then Kumaratunga government was desperately seeking the political support of the SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) after it was driven to unpopularity with many losing military battles (including Elephant Pass), cost of living increase, unpopular political solutions and financial mismanagement. As such the ruling coalition gave into SLMC demand to enact this law. It was a very short-sighted politically gluttonous move as a year later an ungrateful SLMC left the coalition. Not much happened for a decade. With the expansion of trade after the military victory in 2009 the demand and popularity of the halal certificate increased.
However, it is part of the law today and unless the law is changed, it is lawful for the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama to issue halal certificates to willing participants. Unless the law changes or the Ulama decides not to create further divisions, those who oppose the halal certificate have no choice than to stomach it.
Potential Earnings of the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama Surpasses Any Other Religious Entity
The All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama has published the cost structure of the halal certificate. Each halal product costs approximately Rs. 6,000 a year with a cap of Rs. 300,000 for an entity with more than 100 products.
This is nothing short of extortion.
However, the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama has not published audited financial statements in its website which is a grave shortcoming raising fears of fraud and illegal money transactions to radical groups.
This has led to all sorts of distorted estimated figures. It claims in 2010 alone 140 entities obtained halal certificates for over 4,000 products. Applying their rate structure, these 4,000 products would have earned the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama a revenue in the range of Rs. 12 million – Rs. 24 million. This is a colossal amount of money earned by a religious entity. If the same trend continued till 2013, it would be earning revenue in the range of Rs. 48 million – Rs.96 million every year since 2013. If these figures are wrong, the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama must provide audited financial statements indicating its revenue. Based on the tariff structure and the fact that every known food producer is now going halal, the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama possibly earns revenue far in excess of Rs. 100 million a year, every year from now. This makes the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama the highest earning religious entity in the country!
And where does this get spent on? As it is not a profit making entity, the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama spends almost the entity of its earnings on the promotion of Islamic practices, mainly on halal certification. In other words, mostly non-Islamic people are compelled to finance the practice of Islamic teachings (which means absolutely nothing to most Sri Lankans) in the country to the tune of Rs. 100 million a year. This is unfair by any standard.
However, things get far worse as more and more retail, wholesale and manufacturing entities go halal. Small time food producers will be forced to obtain the halal certificate or their produce will not be purchased by supermarkets, hotels or other buyers. This has two possible outcomes – either small time food producers will go bankrupt or they will pay and obtain halal certificates for each of their products. There are over 250,000 small scale meat and associated food producers in the island. Most of them produce a single product or less than 100 products. According to the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama’s tariff structure, that would earn the All Ceylon Jamayyuthul Ulama a staggering revenue of Rs. 1.5 billion a year. Most of it will be paid by non-Muslims.
The biggest concern is not about these money ending up with terrorist organisations. The biggest concern is the Ulama fattening itself and Muslims practicing their religious teachings at the expense of others.
A Peaceful Compromise
Needless to say there cannot be peace when non-Muslims have to pay millions of rupees for the promotion and practice of the Islamic practice of halal. This has the potential to lead to mistrust, boycotts and clashes. A peaceful compromise is needed.
Every halal certificate related payment by every entity must be required to pay an equal amount of money as National Peace Levy. As the proponents of the halal certification say, the cost is insignificant to individual consumers and individual businesses. If so doubling the cost cannot be significant either. The National Peace Levy thus collected can go to the ministry of national heritage which will end up in productive use of maintaining historical sites and artefacts of the nation. Lack of maintenance and security of historical sites has led to vandalism.
It makes sense for those who outright oppose the proliferation of halal certificate to agree to a compromise like this which will be enforced via a parliamentary act. It helps both the proponents and opponents of the halal certificate. It is the perfect peaceful compromise. Else the Halal certification process must be limited to a few specialty Halal shops and producers.
Most Sri Lankans are not prepared to pay for the practice of an Islamic religious practice to the tune of millions of rupees every year.
The Ulama must publish audited financial statements for all to see their earnings and expenses.