KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim today mocked a ministry enforcer who claimed the “no pork” status used by some eateries was to deceive Muslims, and said the only people confused by the sign are those who have trouble understanding the English language.
The former de facto law minister also suggested that the officer from the Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Co-operatives Ministry may have been wrong to say that such eateries could be penalised as the Trade Descriptions Act 2011 stipulates that it is only an offence if the restaurant is not actually “pork-free”.
“The restaurant owners are not saying that their businesses are halal and they are not misrepresenting ‘halal status’ to consumers. The owners are not even saying that their premises are clean or that their servings are cholesterol-free — just pork-free,” Zaid wrote in a blog post.
“If there is confusion from this simple sign, then the problem is not with the restaurant owners but with customers and Ministry enforcement officers who do not understand plain English,” he added.
Despite this, Zaid urged restaurant owners to stop using “pork-free” signs altogether “because it causes unnecessary problems given the attitudes of the ministry’s enforcement division and the poor comprehension of English generally.”
He said if these restaurants insist on using the sign, the government may eventually tell them to put up the “halal” sign instead, forcing the eateries to go through the halal certification process with the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).
This, Zaid said, would only cost the eateries money.
“By the way, I must tell readers that there is no law in Malaysia that says Muslims must eat halal food.
“There is Allah’s law, of course, which makes it a sin for Muslims to eat pork and certain other types of meat, but there is no law that defines halal in a comprehensive way,” he added.
Last weekend, Malay daily Berita Harian (BH) quoted ministry enforcement director Mohd Roslan Mahayudin as saying that action can be taken against restaurants using the “no pork” sign for attempting to deceive Muslims into dining in their premises.
He reportedly told the newspaper that the sign does not mean a restaurant is classified “halal” or permissible under Islam, and thus action can be taken under Sections 28 and 29 of the Trade Descriptions Act 2011 for attempting to confuse Muslims through Quranic verses and objects.
Section 28 in the Act deals with terms and expressions used in relation to goods or services, while Section 29 touches on informative marking and certification orders.
Under Section 28, a company can be fined not more than RM5 million for first offence, while an offender that is not a corporate body can be fined not more than RM1 million or jailed not more than three years.
Under Section 29, a company can be fined not more than RM200,000 for first offence, while an offender that is not a corporate body can be fined not more than RM100,000 or jailed not more than three years.
In the same report, BH said its own survey found that only one of the 10 restaurants surveyed at a mall here had Jakim’s halal certification displayed while nine others only had the ‘no pork’ sign.
BH reported a restaurant operator explaining that the “pork free” sign was just a way of telling its consumers that it does not serve dishes with pork and that it had not applied for halal certification with Jakim.