Dear Bodu Bala Sena,
Over the past few months I’ve come to notice that you seem to dislike Halal meat. Perhaps you dined at a Halal restaurant and found the meat gamey. I can assure you though, that Halal meat is not too different from any other meat. What makes meat Halal is merely in the way the animal is slaughtered. Like you, we Muslims do not believe we can take lives willy-nilly. So we say a little prayer for the animal about to be slaughtered.
The animal’s throat is then slit. And that’s about it, really. Anyone can eat this meat; we’re happy to share our food with all of you– Buddhists and Hindus who choose to eat meat, Christians, atheists, and Scientologists too; no discrimination.
Of course, if you still have reservations about consuming Halal meat and wish to continue to boycott it, that’s fine. Though I see how this may circumscribe your dietary options. Quite a number of restaurants, cafes and eateries in Colombo serve Halal food. There are a fair number of meat products in the frozen food section of super markets as well. You would have to stick to Keells meat products. It would be a shame because then you wouldn’t get to try Bairaha’s saporous marinated chicken thighs that come in neat packets. You won’t get to taste Domino’s Pizzas either (though, trust me; you aren’t losing out on anything there).
While that may be a reason for you to boycott it, in the recent news reports you were demanding for this business of Halal certification to be chucked out entirely. And that’s what I find difficult to digest. Isn’t it the prerogative of the restaurant owner to decide if they want their food Halal certified or not? It would do better for their business if Muslims patronise their establishment. More customers the better, isn’t it?
By asking them to abandon their Halal certificates, they’ll lose their Muslims clientele. In these times of inflation and economic hardship, that’s not going to help them much. I sincerely hope you have thought this through.
A matter of interest
I wish to add that by demanding other Buddhists to boycott Halal food, you’re cooking up an unsavoury pot of odium for your community. Why create disharmony? You’re philosophy is about peace and so is my religion, I’m sure we can accommodate each other’s dietary preferences; peacefully. As it is right now, it’s the Muslims who stew over what we can and can’t eat. The Buddhists were free to eat whatever they fancy without giving it a second thought; now they will have to go through the pains of having to pick and choose their food too.
You may also be interested to know that during Ramazan, the mosque at the top of my lane feeds Buddhists who live in the area. During the month of Ramazan– right after the Asar prayers– the mosque distributes congee (rice porridge) which is consumed during iftar (breaking fast). The congee is, of course, Halal. Many Buddhists (who aren’t fasting) come to the mosque with buckets and join the Muslims (who are fasting) who have lined up for their iftar congee. The mosque does not refuse the non-Muslims congee, and this has been in practice for years.
The congee is not for free for the Muslims in the area. A few days before Ramazan begins, an official from the mosque visits the Muslim houses in the area and each household makes a donation for a month’s supply of congee ingredients. A month’s supply of congee that’s enough to feed ALL those who turn up at the mosque after Asar; irrespective of their religion.
The non-Muslims households don’t contribute to the mosque’s collection till; so for them the spiced porridge is for free.
By demanding for a boycott, the Buddhists in my neighbourhood will have to refrain from taking their bucket to the mosque during Ramazan. That would be a pity because some of them are not exactly well to do and could use the food.
Sri Lanka is a peace-loving, multicultural nation. We all enjoy each other’s festivals. Just as the Buddhists in my neighbourhood indulge in the Ramazan congee, during the Sinhala New Year, they bring around plates of kevum and kokis for us Muslims. We’ve been living quite peacefully over the years. It would be a shame if all of this came to an end now with your call to boycott Halal food, and your incitement of discord.
I do hope you will consider recanting your campaign, or at least allow the Buddhists people too choose for themselves if they wish to consume Halal meat or not– instead of stoutly banning it islandwide.