And now using Halal-certified products to keep communal pot boiling in UP

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Photo credit: Free Press Journal.

By Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—The UP government headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath does not lack issues to polarize communities and keep the communal pot boiling ever since he took over the reins of the state.

The latest instance is that of banning Halal-certified products in the state and removing loudspeakers from religious places that do not conform to the decibel level allowed by the state government.

The ban on Halal-certified products has attracted international headlines. It has been covered by all major media houses all over the globe.

What is surprising about the ban on Halal products is that the Yogi government has banned the manufacture, storage, and sale of Halal products in domestic markets in UP.

However, there is no ban on the export of Halal products manufactured in his state.

The contention of the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA) department is that those issuing Halal certification do not have the expertise to test if the Halal product conforms to the Islamic standards for Halal and is unadulterated from the Islamic point of view. The consumption of such products will violate the religious feelings of Muslims who consider Halal products the purest and the most hygienic.

The concern of the government, if genuine, is highly appreciable. But what is not understandable is the government allowing the same Halal product for export.

If a particular Halal product is not suitable for domestic consumption, how can it be good for the health of people in other countries?

If the religious feelings of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh or the rest of India get hurt if the Halal product sold out to them is adulterated with Islamically prohibited materials, it will similarly hurt the religious feelings of Muslims in other countries as well.

The majority of the Halal products manufactured in India by different companies, almost all of them owned by non-Muslims, are exported to markets in Muslim-dominated countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Muslim-Arab countries. Is it ethical and morally permissible for a country to export a product it has banned in its own markets on the grounds that its Halal quality is doubtful? Instead of banning its sale in domestic markets only, it must crack down on all exporters and also seize all such materials for export because the sale or export of fake products amounts to a high level of trade malpractice and amounts to a serious crime.

However, industry sources say that more than 99 percent of Halal products manufactured by Indian companies are meant for export only. Hardly a fraction of the total Halal product manufactured in India is sold out in domestic markets. That is why a ban on Halal products in the domestic market does not hurt the industry. Hence, the industries involved in the manufacture of Halal products are not bothered about the ban. The ban also does not affect the trusts and companies issuing Halal certification to industries because industries need Halal certification for export purposes only which gives them an edge over others in attracting business and increasing annual turnover. If the political analysts are to be believed, the ban has a political angle.  As soon as the word Halal is mentioned, it reflects its association with Muslims. Though the ban does not materially harm the Muslim masses, it conveys a message to the hardline and radical Hindutva that the Yogi government is tough on Muslims and is not allowing even the sale of Halal products in the state’s markets. According to analysts, this helps the Chief Minister and his party to keep his constituents in good humour and ensure division of the society on communal lines that gives dividends during elections.

No sooner did the debate on Halal products subsided than the UP government came up with another circular to maintain a particular decibel level of loudspeakers installed at religious places. Within a few days of the drive, thousands of loudspeakers were removed from religious places on the pretext that their decibel level was higher than the permitted one though the administration could have allowed them to continue by lowering their decibel level.

Reports reaching here say that most of the religious places affected by the latest drive are mosques. At many places, police are reported to have asked the mosque management that the sound of Azaan on loudspeakers should not go out of the mosque which is a violation of the government’s own circular. The government order has given directions for a particular level of sound decibels to be maintained at religious places to avoid sound pollution. It is not mentioned that the loudspeaker sound should not be heard outside.

Earlier, the Yogi government targeted Muslims by bulldozing the houses of those Muslims who had taken the lead in the democratic protests against derogatory remarks of BJP leader Nupur Sharma against Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Even if organizing the protests was a crime, no law allows the demolition of houses of criminals. However, the government argued that these were built illegally. The question is that only the houses of these persons were illegal in a state with a population of approximately 30 crores. Did the government conduct any survey of other illegally built houses and what action did it take against them? Why did the government not demolish them?

Political analysts say that the Yogi government is doing all this to keep the communal pot boiling and reap its dividends in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections just a few months away.

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