‘Halal’ at the center of a political controversy
Halal hotels that primarily serve the religious and dietary needs of practicing Muslims are at the center of a political controversy raging in Kerala.
Dispute erupted after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state chairman K. Surendran reported Travancore Devaswom’s board of directors buying “halal certified” jaggery to make prasadam at the temple. Sabarimala Ayyappa.
He alleged that the state’s “halal” hotels were fronts for radical Islamists. He accused fundamentalists of gradually imposing a “halal” culture in the state.
Voice of dissent
The only dissenting voice in the BJP appeared to be party spokesman Sandeep Warrier. In a post on FB, Mr Warrier suggested that it was wrong to discriminate against halal hotels. He said people of different religions frequent these restaurants and people of other faiths work in these establishments. The service sector served everyone and its collapse would push hundreds of families into poverty. Moreover, Hindus, Muslims and Christians could not coexist harmoniously if they embarked on financially. “Reason, not passion, should lead the way in such a debate,” Mr. Warrier wrote.
The BJP seemed to have corrected Mr. Warrier. On Sunday, BJP Secretary General of State P. Sudhir equated “halal” with a “social evil” such as “triple talaq”. The BJP demanded that the state government ban “halal” signs in front of hotels. He reiterated Mr. Surendran’s position that Islamists were behind the widespread “halal” branding in Kerala. The government of Pinarayi Vijayan tacitly supported them.
BJP reportedly holds statewide protests on November 25 to protest government-Islamist link, as evidenced by lack of progress in Sanjith murder case, the widespread use of the halal brand of hotels and restaurants and the Indian Communist Party (Marxist) [CPI(M)] alliance with fundamentalists in dozens of local organizations.
The CPI (M) criticized the BJP’s gamble as a nefarious attempt to demonize minorities and destroy the values of multiculturalism in Kerala. CPI (M) Acting Secretary of State A. Vijayaraghavan said the Sangh Parivar was aimed at food, which had always served as a secular bridge between communities. The CPI (M) would observe December 7 as a “day of protest” to highlight the growing attacks against minorities and their rights.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan said the halal controversy was unnecessary. Extremist fringe elements existing in the radicalized dim light of minority and majority communities were behind the argument. It had no bearing on the question of people’s livelihoods.