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The politics of halal
by Shelina Janmohamed
Last month in Sri Lanka, serious violence broke out among local Buddhists when the government said it was considering a halal certification scheme. The scheme was aimed at the domestic Muslim community to whom it would offer security in consumption. As a bonus, it would help establish a place for the country's products in the growing world halal economy.
The local body of Islamic clerics who proposed the scheme has since withdrawn it in the interests of local harmony. It was the right thing to do – but a loss for local Muslims and for Sri Lanka's share of a $2.1tn global market.
This is probably the most extreme case so far when it comes to the politics of halal. But tensions over manufacturing, certifying and promoting halal products are replicated in other countries, too. Points of contention include who has the right to certify, whether some certifications are better than others, and what to do about consumers who specifically don't want halal products.
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