Side Views

Of pig DNA and social justice – Hamri Ibrahim & Daniel Iqram

Lately, the Malaysian populace, specifically Muslim Malays, were taken aback by the detection of porcine DNA by the Ministry of Health in two products by the chocolate manufacturer Cadbury.

Following the incident, Jakim (the supreme authority on Islamic affairs in the country) suspended with immediate effect the halal certificates for the chocolate bars Dairy Milk Hazelnut and Dairy Milk Roast Almond.

It has stirred anger amongst Malaysian Muslims, as they are of the perception that their trust in Cadbury to market halal products has been betrayed.

The widespread displeasure in the company has resulted in a multitude of criticisms and negative reactions. Most recently, an organisation claiming to collectively represent Islamic NGOs in Malaysia declared jihad against the company.

In a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, the president of Pertubuhan Kebajikan Darul Islah Malaysia (a welfare body) called for holy war against Cadbury for their alleged attempts to ‘weaken’ the Muslim community in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs demanded that Cadbury bear the cost of blood exchange transfusions for Muslims who had consumed the chocolate prior to the aforementioned exposure.

In addition, there were those who suggested that they rinse their mouths with soil water (as an analogy to the cleansing practice decreed by a minority of scholars for the contact of human skin with pigs).

Furthermore, the president of Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (the Muslim Consumer Association of Malaysia) urged Cadbury to shut down its factories and beseeched Muslims to boycott its products.

Even more extreme were those who proposed that the factories be burned down altogether.

It is most certainly decreed in Islam that pigs and products thereof are forbidden for consumption by Muslims; Cadbury Malaysia was clearly in the wrong to have used porcine elements in their confection, in light of this fact.

This move, which circumstantially involved false advertising, deservedly drew enormous surprise from the nation’s adherents of the Islamic faith.

However, the over-reaction in this circumstance has made it appear as if Muslims are excessively sensitive in matters of accidental consumption, to the point that other, more pressing injustices (such as gambling, corruption, the imbibing of alcohol, adultery, and the throwing away of babies) have been overshadowed.

The effect is doubly sordid when common sense says that those who commit sin without knowing, surely cannot be blamed.

This tidal lashback from the Malays seems to dissociate daily living rulings pertinent to food consumption from those related to social harmony and governance. Do these rulings not come from the same God?

As Muslims, we have been taught from young that impurity of food results in impurity of flesh, the consequence of which is punishment in Purgatory. Thus, food consumption is treated with vigilance in a Muslim household.

Nevertheless, few are aware of the fact that acquiring wealth via illicit means, such as gambling and corruption, impacts in the same way that porcine product ingestion does. And food which is obtained from that impure wealth will result in the same punishment; never mind the fact that gambling and corruption bring harm to those surrounding the individual in question as well.

In a more practical example, the fabric which holds together the people of a nation will surely be disrupted by widespread corruption. Felons will live as they wish to and are free to go about their wrongdoings as they please, without fear for the law. Consequently, crime and social ills will increase in number following the unjust conduct of the responsible authorities.

In this setting of Malaysia as a multi-racial and multi-religious country, the typical reaction of Muslims in facing such issues often gives rise to confusion and misunderstanding of the non-Muslim society regarding authentic Islamic teachings.

Moreover, ever since the shaman incident at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport around two months back, Malaysia has often been thrown into the limelight whenever Muslim concerns arise, albeit frequently for the wrong reasons.

It inadvertently paints a negative picture of Muslims in Malaysia as a whole, even though the reality may be that the fewer, more level-headed ones think not in the same careless, unrefined fashion as the majority.

Thus, perceivedly necessary acts such as arson, blood exchange transfusions and rinsing mouths with soil water may be seen as extreme by outsiders and are misrepresentative of the proper image of Islam.

However grave the matter at hand, we must face it with rationality and not be emotion-driven. Islam as rahmatal lil-‘alaamin (the blessing to the universe) has always taught its adherents civility and affection towards others.

At the same time, the relevant authorities must take strict action against Cadbury to ensure that such an occurrence does not repeat itself in the future.

Therefore, it is necessary for Malaysian Muslims to practise wisdom when dealing with any sort of issue and not to counteract excessively.

These sort of situations should be actually capitalised on to show non-Muslims the correct Islamic teachings, based on the Quran and Sunnah (way of the Prophet).

What has happened instead is that they have resulted in the miscomprehension of others towards Muslims, and, most possibly, it has driven them further away from the faith. – May 29, 2014.

* Hamri Ibrahim & Daniel Iqram are readers of The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

Comments