Even as the debate around Halal meat rages in the state, a woman from Kerala has taken things into her own hands.
Smt Thushara from Palarivattom, Kochi has put up a No-Halal board outside her restaurant. “Halal is nishidh,” the board says in Malayalam, indicating that her restaurant will only serve non-halal food. Halal is so pervasive in Kerala that this might be the first non-Halal restaurant in the state.
The news is going viral on social media, but Thushara says she doesn’t understand what they controversy is about. Why is it such a big issue I put up a sign saying no-Halal, she says. It is socially acceptable to put up Halal signs everywhere, so why can I not put up a Non-Halal sign, she asks.
Over the last few months, the discriminatory nature of Halal has come to the forefront in Kerala. Right before Christmas, Christian association CASA had issued a call to boycott Halal meat, and said it should not be brought to the table for members of the community. “Getting non-halal food is our right. But unfortunately in Kerala, the situation is very different. The owners of most of the restaurants belong to the Muslim community, and they sell only Halal food. We are forced to buy Halal food only. Even restaurants owned by Hindus and Christians are forced to sell Halal food,” a spokesperson had then told Times Now.
A while later, a Hindu organization had asked a bakery to remove the Halal sticker from its shop, threatening to boycott the shop and launch protests if it didn’t comply. The group had said that halal is discriminatory and amounted to discrimination in the name of food, which is “criminal”. After the matter had been publicized, a case had been registered against the members of the Hindu organization, and they had been arrested.
Seeing Halal signs everywhere has been normalized in India and around the world over the years, but it’s only now that the discrimination inherent in the practice is coming to light. Meat is certified halal if it’s prepared as per the dictates of the Quran. For meat to be Halal, the butcher killing the animal must be Muslim; he must additionally recite a Muslim prayer while killing the animal, and the animal must face Mecca while it is killed. A number of Halal certifying bodies then certify if the meat is Halal or not.
Hindus and Christians have no religious restrictions on whether their meat is Halal or not, while observing Muslims only consume Halal meat. This leads to restaurants offering only Halal meat on their menus, ensuring that Hindus, Muslims and Christians can all visit their restaurants — if their meat were not certified Halal, they risk losing out on their Muslim clients.
This, in turns, leads to butchers of other faiths finding that there are no takers for their meat — no butcher who is non-Muslim can be involved in the preparation of Halal meat. With restaurants choosing to only buy Halal meat, demand for meat prepared by Christian and Hindu butchers falls, which has been slowly putting Hindu and Muslim butchers out of business. This issue has been especially acute for Dalit butchers, who find that they are unable to sell their meat. But with Kerala now getting its first non halal restaurant, it’s likely that many others would follow suit, bringing an end to the discrimination that’s been carried out in plain view for decades.