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‘Halal’ war in Kerala: Misreading Islamic terms and misusing social media

BJP is desperately trying to make the issue of halal food into an issue to get Hindus in the state behind it after the Sabarimala women’s entry issue. There have been Halal restaurants in Kerala for decades. Similarly to purdah, halal meat was introduced to the state as a result of Gulf migration. There is no record of when the first halal shop opened in the state. In Muslim-dominated Malappuram and Kozhikode, where most meat shops are run by Muslims, halal boards were established. The word halal in Arabic means ‘permissible’, which implies the animal was slaughtered according to Islamic law. This is done by cutting a jugular vein and carotid artery so that the blood drains before the meat is processed. Prior to becoming popular in Europe and India, the practice originated in the Gulf and Islamic countries.

Muslims gained popularity with the branding as they believed it was a healthier way to process meat. Malabar became the first region in Kerala to have halal food shops, and then other parts of the state followed. Meat-loving Kerala, not bothered by the religious tag, embraced the delicacies with gusto. Halal meat shops and food are being targeted in an attempt to divide society along communal lines. The campaign has evil intentions and it will disrupt communal harmony.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a powerful leader from Thalassery in Malabar and a member of the CPI(M) politburo, also supports Hafiz, calling the campaign an attempt to sow communal hatred with food. Hindu Aikyavedi issued notices against hotels that sell halal food almost 11 months ago, and the campaign gained momentum after the BJP and Sangh Parivar started a social media campaign.

Earlier this month, the Hindu Aikyavedi, Kurumassery unit, in Ernakulam district, issued a notice asking a bakery named Mody not to advertise or stock halal food brands. After receiving the notice, Mody bakery backed down and removed the tag, fearing for its business. Sangh Parivar organizations continued their anti-halal campaign after their initial success. Fish, chicken, mutton, beef, pork, and a variety of other meats are consumed in Kerala every year. Nearly 85% of these meats are halal.

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According to BJP leaders, the party campaign has received a boost after allegations surfaced that halal jaggery had been distributed in Sabarimala during the pilgrim season. Following speculation about conspiracy theories, the Travancore Devaswom Board clarified that it had contracted with Pune-based SP Sugar and Agro Pvt Ltd to supply half a million kgs of jaggery packets during the season. Hindu nationalist and Sabarimala Action Committee convenor S.J.R Kumar still opposed the use of halal jaggery in prasad preparation for devotees in a petition before the High Court. According to the TDB’s counter-affidavit, the petition was motivated and based on false information.


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