Muslims and eating pork

The matter of the abhorrence of Muslims against eating pork got national attention last week in the hostage drama of former Senator Leila de Lima. She narrated that while being tied by one of the three would-be escapees who were eventually killed, Feliciano Sulayao, told her that one of their complaints was being “fed with pork.” This is not an attempt to condone a bit the abominable crimes that the criminals allegedly committed or to mitigate their culpability. We are just showing how far Muslims will go, even risking their lives to avoid committing what their religion prohibits.

In my previous articles, I walked my readers through the basic concept of “halal” or food that Muslims are allowed by Islam to eat. I, likewise, discussed the underlying health risks of eating pork which prompted Islam and other religious sects to ban its consumption by their adherents. Also, the efforts of the government to help ease the gastronomy predicament of Muslims by creating a body that can certify whether the food has undergone the process and rituals required by the religion. Apropos of this, one will ask: Is it now safe for Muslims to partake of foods certified as “halal” by government-accredited agencies? Hardly.

A fortnight ago, there was a news release about complaints against firms faking “halal” certifications. It reads further: “An official of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos has asked local governments to penalize establishments found to be faking their halal certification.” Worry swept Morolandia. It went viral on the social media accounts of Muslim chat groups.

It’s really a pity that while there is a law on halal certification, it has failed to provide for a corresponding penalty for violating the proscription. It still needs a local ordinance to impose penalties for false claims about food being halal-certified. According to an official of the NCMF, “some establishments use only Arabic words to lure unsuspecting customers.” In other words, even if there is a logo with an Arabic inscription displayed on the doors or windows of restaurants, it is not a guarantee of its authenticity. It could be a ploy when food establishments do not have halal certification.

Another related problem that surfaced is the fact that there is no uniform rate for halal certification as they are done by private agencies accredited by the NCMF. Some firms complained of prohibitive rates in securing halal certification being the reason why they resort to misrepresentation. They employ illegal ways, not the least corruption, to secure the certification. The effete implementation of the law gave way to these anomalies.

This issue should be brought to the fore to get the attention of the authorities. Muslim civil society groups should raise the concern to a higher level of public consciousness. If there is a need for the amendment of the law to provide the necessary penalties for violation, it should be done.

To Muslims living in a non-Muslim community, it is best to take precautionary measures. According to “ulamahs” or scholars, in case of doubt about the purity of the food, one should avoid it. Muslim diners in restaurants should first investigate and be civil with food attendants to aid them to identify which food contains pork, its derivatives, or its ingredients.

Amid this uncertainty about halal foods, the lawyer in me tells me that an unintentional consumption of pork should not be considered a sin. The key factor is one’s “intention.” I stand by the legal precept that there is no crime where there is no intention to commit it (with some exceptions). Or, as we were fond of quoting during our university days at the enclave of Malcolm Hall, “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.”

The issue is between me and my Creator. And it is He alone who can judge whether I committed an indiscretion.


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