Sri Lanka identifies and removes a divisive Halal Certificate – Triumph for wisdom and common sense
Posted on March 12th, 2013

Shenali Waduge

 A huge sigh of relief prevails in Sri Lanka. News welcomed by every right thinking person followed by the announcement to remove the Halal certificate/logo from local products. Nobody needs to feel ashamed. It must be seen in terms of triumph for wisdom and common sense, or in other words a win for both sanity and rationality. The most important lesson emerging from this dispute is the dawning of wisdom that without the consent and prior approval of people of the older culture controversial and new practices of people of later or newer cultures cannot be simply absorbed or sustained by purely evoking universal tenets of freedom of religion. This together with the future possibility that it would create divisions amongst the Muslims themselves as is seen unfolding in different parts of the world is what prompted the issue to surface. In hindsight the Muslims of Sri Lanka will be thankful.  

 Buddhists asked to mind their own business

Sri Lanka becomes the only non-Muslim nation to have articulated the practicalities of halal certification and to have amicably brought the chapter to a close allowing people to perhaps review and to reassess actions and behaviors detrimental to the main objective that being peaceful coexistence. Nothing should come in between the desire to live in peace amongst the communities and no new religious practices previously non-existent should hinder or obstruct that. Intelligently debating issues is for all reasons a preferred option. Likewise Mr. Hameed Abdul Karim and I chose that path to which Mr. Zubair and Mr. R M B Senanayake  contributed with their views. Mr. Zubair’s response fortified the fears that were projected whilst R M B Senanayake was of the view that the Buddhists should mind their own business as they had been doing in the past reinforcing the Colombo non-Buddhist general view that the voice of Buddhists need not matter. It is a well-structured gameplan that aims to target international audiences who are ever ready to build upon their prejudiced assertions.

 Step-motherly treatment for Buddhist by Sri Lankan Media

The manner with which media operates in Sri Lanka is such that it is virtually impossible to have the Buddhist perspective of things balanced with that of the rest. Almost always as against one Buddhist view the media would give prominence to several opposing views all uniting to conclude that Buddhists were on a witch hunt when the reality was the reverse.  It was interesting reading how all these commentaries brought in arguments that were not only out of context but evasive in providing appropriate answers to the questions posed.

 Halal certificate would have divided the Muslims

Sadly, without looking at the reasons clearly identified the opted course was to project a concocted anti-Muslim image on the part of those objecting trying to protect their traditional space though that did not explain why many Muslims living in Colombo saw the bigger picture in realizing that the fundamentalist Muslim behavioral pattern would invariably end up affecting how they lived as they saw happening in Egypt and Libya. The importance of the removal of the halal in essence has helped Muslims not be targets to the suffering that other Muslim nations now go through with sectarian violence that have been planted to divide them forever.

 Both Muslims and non-Muslims in Sri Lanka have found the liberties they enjoyed slowly being taken away from them with strict application of tribal 5th Century rooted Islamic laws and practices. There was never a question of Muslims in Sri Lanka having to change anything and it was the Buddhists that saw the warning signs posing to the Muslims whether they wanted to face a situation like in Egypt at a future date. Many Muslims in Sri Lanka thankfully realize this and prefer peaceful co-existence over the rigidity and separation from the rest of the community being slowly introduced through new incursions like halal certificate, proliferation of mosques, new dress codes, loudspeakers, home slaughter, animal sacrifice etc all giving a statement that is unpalatable and discomforting to the rest of this country . Thus the current protests were to raise caution hoping that the Muslims of Sri Lanka would not fall similarly for those that were using Islam as a ploy to set different agendas that will internally divide Muslims, set Muslims apart and place the Muslims on a collision course with people of other races and religions in this country. The Muslims would one day be thankful to the Buddhists.

 As for the halal certificate the comments by Mr. Karim did not answer how a certificate could validate the halal status since to declare anything halal the slaughter must be done by a Muslim and realistically people not of the Book (Hindus and Buddhists) cannot be associated with that activity.””…” in a non-Muslim Buddhist nation it is unrealistic to expect the whole food chain to be  controlled by Muslims to declare it as completely halal. A religious entity cannot dictate the eating patterns of others. Halal certification impracticality was the core principle argument behind the objections.

 To avoid rational thinking and debate whereby Muslims themselves would understand the impracticalities of the halal in the context of what the Quran says is halal/haram the safer option was to project a non-existent anti-Muslim communal campaign. This would allow those with vested interests to unnecessarily arouse people’s emotions away from seeing the other side and accepting the other version of things. However, it has not succeeded  in erasing  the fundamental moral and ethical principle that religious rights can be acceptable to others only so long as they do not harm another. Religious rights have borderlines and religions need to be conscious of those borderlines especially in a nation where causing harm to another i.e. whether man or animal is non””…”acceptable. In pre- colonial Sri Lanka the abuse and killing of animals was totally prohibited “”maaghatha””Rule. People lost rank and status if they were associated with killing of animals and consumption of meat particularly beef. It was with the entry of the Portuguese in the 16th century that legitimacy was granted to the killing of cattle and eating of beef. Muslims would not have engaged in halal slaughter prior to 1505. People cannot forget this important aspect of history.

 Objective is to create a compassionate society in Sri Lanka

In the Buddha’s eyes a person was judged by his conduct and not by his birth. Translated even a lowborn (so””…”called) can rise and behave as a Brahmin while a Brahmin can stoop low and engage in degrading conduct and become an outcaste. Our actions determine who we are.

 In a Buddhist society the people who honor the Buddhist 1st precept and those who violate that 1st precept are not co-equals. In a moral and ethical sense too they are not equals. Those that revere life and those that do not have reverence for life (all forms of life) cannot be equals.

 This was a critical basis of differentiating people. Respect for the sanctity of life was a binding requirement to gain acceptance in traditional Sinhalese Buddhist Society. Those who failed that test were relegated to the margins of society. Sub””…”Cultures that produced butchers and people who abused animals lived in the dark shadows of society, without status, without respect.

 Buddhism provides advocacy for the moral rights of all sentient beings. No one is excluded. It is an inclusive religion that calls for compassion and “ƒ”¹…”non””…”harm’ in our day to day dealings with others. It calls for peaceful co””…”existence between man and animal. It calls for extension of gratitude even to an animal if we have sustained ourselves from its labour or produce. It does not adopt an utilitarian attitude which is rooted in Abrahamic religions that when an animal after a long period of service to its master is no longer capable of continuing such service then it must be forthwith destroyed for its flesh.  The older culture of this country never subscribed to these attitudes. Buddhist values unequivocally sustain life.   

 In a world where populations are spiraling, food and water issues will emerge and our environment is being overtaxed where little reverence is paid to our ecosystems that give us air to breathe we need to reassess how far we humble ourselves to accept that just as we have a right to live the animals that have no voice to convey their pain also have a right to live until the end of their natural span of life.

 The ideal society is a compassionate society. Buddhist teachings provides a framework for the establishment of an inclusive social order that will endeavor to work in the pursuit of this noble objective. 

4 Responses to “Sri Lanka identifies and removes a divisive Halal Certificate – Triumph for wisdom and common sense”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    We should thank Shenali Waduge too.

    She STOOD FIRM despite Arabic racists calling her a racist, arousing tension and other BS.

    If we all remain only soup DRINKERS and NONE willing to contribute rice for the soup, NO ONE will have soup.

  2. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    i want to share a letter a muslim wrote to sunday observer of 22 august 2004 about wahaabism.

    Non-Muslim politicians at Dewatagaha Mosque

    This has reference to an article that appeared in the Sunday Observer on August 1, under the heading “Non Muslim politicians at Dewatagaha”. Though the national newspapers are not the proper fora to discuss religious issues especially of a minority community, yet this rejoinder is intended to refute heresies contained therein.

    Sad to state, there are seventy-three divisions among Muslims who have testified to Allah and His Prophet. The largest and righteous among them is called “The People of Sunnah” (Customs of the Holy Prophet) and the consensus.

    Their creed is as enunciated by Imam Al Ashari. Among their beliefs they accept that Allah’s Apostles do have power to interecede on behalf of their followers, so do Awliyas (Saints of Allah). One such Holy person who is interred in the Dewatagaha Shrine is His Holiness Sheikh Usman Waliyullah. People of various hues and beliefs flock him to seek his favour and blessings for generations.

    This pious act provokes the writer to come out with scathing attack on all who patronize Him. These utterances remind me to be that of strange and weird ideas propounded one Mohamed bin Abdul Wahab who was born in Najd in Saudi Arabia in the year 1703 A.D. corresponding to IIII Hijri year. He started preaching his austere Doctrines which could be described as Anti-Muhammad and Anti-Traditions.

    The pious people of the area rose up against his preachings. Unfortunately, he made a matrimonial union by marrying the daughter of the Amir of Riyadh, Mohamed Al-Saud. That alliance gave him the state patronage to penetrate into all areas and was able to win over some. The state religion of Saudi Arabia is still the Islam as per Wahhabi Doctrine.

    The virus of Wahhabism had entered into Ceylon about 50 years ago. With the monetary package, it has taken roots in some parts of the country, and with some religious organizations. It may be interesting for the readers to know what Wahhabism means. It totally rejects the Uniqueness of Rasulullah, the Schools of thoughts (Madhab), the power of intercession of Prophets, Saints of Allah and in short it is diametrically opposed to the principles of Sunnathu Wal Jamaath. So it’s not strange for the lady of his ilk to belittle the Holy Saints of Dewatagaha and to articulate the misleading Doctrines of Abdul Wahab.

    The readers may be surprised to know Abdul Wahab in his height of power requested his misguided followers to demolish the Tomb of his own Holy Prophet, which is in Madinah. By Allah’s grace nothing untoward happened and it still symbolizes the Pride of Islam.

    May I ask as to why the Saudi government allows millions of faithfuls to throng this Holy site day in and day out if it violates the Islamic principle!!! Similarly, I can vouchsafe anyone who is desirous of visiting the Holy Saint at Dewatagaha, to do so and get his intentions fulfilled. If anyone who needs further clarifications on this issue, can contact the writer at the address given below.

    Lastly, my advice to the people of her category is that, not to add more ammunition to the conflicts among the various communities. The National newspapers are not the platform to raise controversial issues. If she is still not convinced, let her seek the assistance of Learned and righteous Ulamas.

    M. Mousoof,

    wahaabi threat is real

    no more mosques or any religious buildings in heladeepa – we have enough, even buddhist monks agree.
    limit 2 kid per family to curtail wahaabi expansionism.
    encourage muslims to speak in sinhala at home, educate them in media.
    ban the gonibilla dress in heladeepa – this is the most annoying dress a person can wear. head cover must be allowed.
    east must be cleaned – wahaabis must be eliminated.

    thank you dharmasiri weerasinghe for sacrificing your money and time to keep this lankaweb alive for expats and others. you must have a plan to keep this going at the time of your retirement.
    we have been friends for almost 40 years and very few appreciate what we stand for – justice.
    our president mahinda was a man who hated corruption but now he is in it and entangled, surrounded by
    crooks, murderers, bribe takers etc.

    our next step should be to instigate a peoples movement to oust all these corrupt politicians,
    bbs needs to become a political movement and should unite others of similar aspirations
    to bring back the heladeepa to what it was.

  3. Devinda Fernando Says:

    I would really like to know if removing the Halal Sticker actually stops anything??? While its obvious that the ACJU runs an EXTORTION RACKET in Sri Lanka, what remains elusive is the manner in which the animals are slaughtered in the first place? Real Halal Butchery is Brutal and Inhumane, and the animals are bled to death slowly by having their throats sliced open. So ACJU removing a sticker from local Meat Products does not in any way mean the animals are still not subject to such Middle Eastern Barbarism, all it means is that the Public are going to remain unaware of the method in which they are slaughtered. I fear this move is just a window dressing agreement to take the issue out of the public spotlight. ACJU does not run slaughter houses, nor do they supervise the slaughter process (well not any more) so I seriously doubt meat merchants are going to change their practices being that there is no Government impetus to do so. That means if you people really care about animal cruelty then this Halal Certification removal will in all likelihood do absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering, only to settle your conscience and make this issue become yesterday’s news.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    (CNN) — At least 60 people have died in the Libyan capital after drinking locally made alcohol, the Ministry of Health says, and the National Security Directorate of Tripoli said Tuesday it is launching an investigation.

    According to the Libyan News Agency, there were 709 other cases of alcohol poisoning.

    Alcohol sale and consumption is prohibited in Libya, a conservative Muslim nation, but smuggled alcoholic drinks can be found, in addition to homemade alcohol locally known as “bokha.”

    The National Security Directorate said this large-scale poisoning was caused by such locally made alcohol.”

    Gadafi tried to turn SL into a Muslim state in 1976. Now what has happened. :))

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