COLOMBO - In a dear sacrifice to save their country's harmony, Muslim scholars in Sri Lanka decided Monday, March 11, to give up the halal logo on all products to help ease tension with Buddhists.
We are giving up what is very important to Muslims, Rizwe Mufthi of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), Sri Lanka's main body of Muslim scholars, told Zee News.We are making a sacrifice in the interest of peace and ethnic harmony.
The Muslim scholar said consumer products on supermarket shelves would no longer carry the halal certification.
Tension has been growing in Sri Lanka over halal meat in the Buddhist-majority country.
A hardline Buddhist group known as "Bodu Bala Sena", or Buddhist Force, has called for banning the sale of halal food in Sri Lanka, a call resisted by the government.
The group has staged rallies to call for a boycott of halal products in the country.
The hardline group has also given an ultimatum to Muslims to shelve all halal products by the end of March.
It argues that non-Muslims, mostly Buddhists, are being forced to consume food items certified halal.
In an earlier effort to diffuse tensions, the ACJU said that halal products would only be offered to Muslims, a proposal that was dismissed by hardline Buddhists.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Sri Lankan scholars said that halal certification would now be limited to exports meant for Muslim countries.
ACJU said the halal certificates will be issued free of charge only to exporters who request it.
"Until all such stocks are finished the market will have products with the Halal logo," said the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Officials urged the manufacturers to begin the process of changing the packaging immediately to ensure products without the halal logo are available in the market.
Sri Lankan Muslims, known as Moors, are the third largest ethnic group in the country after the Sinhalese, who make up 70 percent of the populace, and Tamils, who account for 12.5 percent.
Sri Lanka has been thrown into tension following a string of serious incidents involving extremist Buddhist provocations against Muslims.
In June, some 200 demonstrators led by several dozen Buddhist monks converged on a small Islamic center in Colombo's suburb of Dehiwala.
Throwing stones and rotten meat over the mosque gate, protestors shouted slogans demanding the closure of the Muslim worship place.
Last April, a number of Buddhist monks disrupted Muslim prayer services in the village of Dambulla. The attackers claimed that the mosque, built in 1962, was illegal.
Weeks later, monks drafted a threatening letter aimed at Muslims in the nearby town of Kurunegala, demanding Islamic prayer services there be halted.
A ministerial committee has been appointed by Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into growing religious tension in the country.The main Opposition UNP has accused the Buddhist Force of having covert blessings from the government for their campaign of Muslim hatred, a claim denied by the group.