Some 37 imported foods and toiletries have disappeared from the market in Karachi, on grounds they contain haram ingredient or their processing was not halal. Since there is no official notice from any government ministry or department, it means some individuals have gone around pressurising storekeepers to remove these consumer items from the shelves.
Most medium and small stores have complied with, simply to protect their stores and marts from violent retaliation. Larger malls have also removed some items from their shelves as a precaution. At a store I patronise, the salesman said one of the fellows who came to ban the consumer goods spoke in a righteous tone, “We don’t eat or use these things in England because they are haram; it is shocking that such foods are imported in Pakistan.” Muslims living in the West the fellow said, always examine the labels for ingredients and have now made a list of 37 items which had haram ingredients, or the meat in tins was not slaughtered in the Muslim manner, or the chemicals used as preservatives in the canning, bottling and packaging were dubious. I asked the salesman if the protester were foreigners. He did not think so because they spoke in Urdu, with a Punjabi accent.
The salesman did not have a written list of the 37 banned imported items but said it included several brands of imported soups in dry and tinned packaging, tinned sausages and corned beef, chocolates, jelly, children’s candies with jelly and bubblegum, snacks, cake mix, instant noodles from South Korea and Japan which are imported in the West and in Pakistan, and cereals.
Gone are the days when people in the West had little or no concept of haram and halal. Pakistanis who went abroad for higher studies or work were told to patronise foods prepared by Jewish manufacturers as this would be kosher. Orthodox Jews do not eat pork or use lard (pig fat) for cooking. This advise is not needed now because of the huge number of Muslims living in the West, and the manufacturers’ desire to corner the consumer market in wealthy Arab countries. Even though the word “halal” is not prominently printed, it is usually mentioned on the label in the ingredient list. Freshly prepared foods sold in the malls in the UK always have the word “halal” on a card especially if the food contains meat, such as qorma. One is informed some makers of bone jelly even asked the ulema for a fatwa that the gelatin used in the jelly manufacture was halal.
There seems to be some other agenda behind the latest move to ban 37 eatables and toiletries in Pakistan. The reason to suspect the motive is that a large number of these items are not imported directly from the West but reach Karachi via Saudi Arabia. It is ridiculous to think the Saudis are ignorant about what they consume.
Another indication is that Saudi Arabia in particular imports eatables in bulk containers and can, bottle or pack them for the market. Not all these goods are labelled “halal” but one is confident they are, because it is not likely the kingdom would ignore the haram-halal aspect of consumer goods. If the names of Saudi Arabia appears on the label one can confidently aver products are halal.
In the USA, street vending of hot dogs are two types. One use pork in the sausage, the other do not. I am not sure if the sausages are made of halal meat, but they certainly are not pork. So many Muslims eat these hot dogs. Pakistani visitors abroad tend to eat fish, thinking it is safe. Those who eat fish for ‘halal-haram’ consideration generally know that the fish has been fried in non-haram oil? If Muslim visitors to the West are worried about ‘haram-halal’ aspect of these common foods, it is understandable. The ban in Pakistan of imported food products does not make sense.
We Pakistanis do not think. We are a herd mindlessly obeying anything the fanatics tell us. Some follow out of blind obedience, some out of fear of violent consequences. Just how ridiculous and mindless is evident when, some years ago, the trend to label domestic products “halal” began. These included food products, such as milk in tetra packs, snacks, even mineral water, soap and pencils. These items were made for the domestic market by local manufacturers. No one asked why such information was necessary on products made in a Muslim country. Is it possible Pakistanis would sell haram products to fellow Pakistanis? Never the less, “halal” continues to be prominently printed on products made in this land of the pure.
Originally published on www. brecorder.com/