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After “Merry Christmas” Cake Fiasco, Netizens Curious If Big Brands Allowed To Market Off Holidays

After “Merry Christmas” Cake Fiasco, Netizens Curious If Big Brands Allowed To Market Off Holidays

The Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure Manual provides no specific rules against having festive themed greetings on products, labels and ads.

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Over Christmas, netizens got whipped around over the topic of whether it was okay for halal-certified stores to advertise and display products in celebration of the year-end holiday or other religious festivals we celebrate in Malaysia.

The issue began following news of a local bakery which had refused to decorate a cake the way a customer wanted – having written “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

Apparently the bakery’s reason for the politically correct cake was in order to follow rules set by the Department of Islamic Development’s (Jakim) halal certification process.

Then came the explanation

Later, Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri stepped in to clarify that it was okay for products to have festive greetings on them as long as they are not put on display.

The former Federal Territories Mufti said on Twitter that halal-certified shops are allowed to have products with festive greetings as long as it is not meant for display or on products with the halal logo.

He explained that there are no specific restrictions against non-Muslim celebrations in the halal certification process – pointing out that the Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure Manual (Domestic) 2020 only applies to applicants and holders of the Malaysian Halal Certificate.

To put it simply, if Store B with a Jakim halal certificate bakes a cake with a festive greeting for display on the premise, then it is not allowed, but if Store B prepared a cake that was ordered by A and there are festive greetings on the cake, it is allowed.

Zulkifli Mohamad via Twitter.

The same was said by Jakim

A statement made by Jakim Deputy-General (Operations) Datuk Abdul Aziz Jusoh, explained that festive greetings were indeed allowed on all products as long as they were not put on display in stores which had been certified halal by the agency.

There is no provision (in the halal certification) which touches on the celebration of any festivals, including Islamic festivals in the Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure Manual (Domestic) 2020

Abdul Aziz via The Star.

A merry misunderstanding?

Some Malaysians, however, were curious to know where authorities draw the line when coming up with their halal justifications.

Netizens came to question how the rules work when it came to bigger brands and companies with Jakim halal certification and their marketing for the festive seasons.

The halal manual

Our quick study of the Malaysian Halal Certification Procedure Manual (Domestic) 2020 – a manual for companies to follow to receive and keep their Jakim halal certification – reveals no specific requirements for festive or religious-themed greetings on products and advertisements.

The manual contains provisions against having immoral and obscene product packaging, labeling and advertising as well as displaying illustrations with animals deemed as “najis mughallazah” or impure by Islam, like swine and dogs.

It also provides a list of names and terms that cannot be used by halal-certified companies for their brands such as ham, bacon, beer, dog or bak kut teh, because of its associations with non-halal products.

The manual also prohibits the use of packaging, labels and advertising that contain statements, symbols, terms or references to the name of God or other religious deities.

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