McDonald’s faces boycott threats in India for serving halal meat

(ALJAZEERA) – McDonald’s has faced boycott calls in India from right-wing Hindus after the global fast food chain said its outlets served halal meat.

The controversy erupted after McDonald’s India said on Twitter that all its restaurants are halal certified.

“All our restaurants have HALAL certificates. You can ask the respective restaurant Managers to show you the certificate for your satisfaction and confirmation,” the fast food company said in a reply to a user’s inquiry.

“The meat that we use, across our restaurants, is of the highest quality and is sourced from government-approved suppliers who are HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) certified,” it tweeted.

However, the reply angered a lot of people on Twitter, who called for a boycott of the US fast food chain, with the hashtag #BoycottMcDonalds trending in India.

Many questioned why McDonald’s was serving halal meat in India where 80 per cent of the 1.3 billion people are Hindus.

The Arabic word “halal” means permissible, and in relation to food, refers to meat and meat-containing products that are prepared on the basis of Islamic law. It involves slaughtering animals according to Muslim tradition.

A user wrote: “This is a blatant and intentional assault on Hindu beliefs. India is 80% Hindu, and there 4% Jain, Sikhs & Buddhists in addition to it. But, McDonald’s had betrayed all these 84% people just to appease the 14% Muslims.

“It’s time people of all Indian Religions #BoycottMcDonalds,” he added.

Many Twitter users also alluded to the hypocrisy of some people who earlier this month had called Muslims not to slaughter sacrificial animals on Eid-ul-Adha and celebrate an “eco-friendly” Eid.

Some activists said it was yet another instance of right-wing Hindu groups finding an opportunity to attack Muslims.

“It is an absolutely Islamophobic atmosphere which is existing in India now and each and every occasion is used by right-wing Hindus to attack Muslims,” Shabnam Hashmi, an activist based in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.

“It’s the extreme right asserting themselves to convert India into a Hindu nation.”

But Vishnu Gupta, national president of Hindu Sena – a right-wing group – said that McDonald’s was ignoring the sensitivities of Hindus.

“McDonald’s can’t force halal meat upon a vast section of Hindus who eat jhatka,” he said referring to the jhatka slaughter, during which the animal’s head is severed in one single blow.

“Their sensitivities can’t be ignored. If McDonald’s can keep in consideration the sensitivities of a particular group, why is it ignoring the others?” he told Al Jazeera.

Gupta warned: “If Mcdonald’s doesn’t change its policy, and start serving both halal and jhatka in its outlets across India, soon our men will protest against the food chain on streets.”

McDonald’s is not the first company that has faced the ire of the right-wing Hindu groups in India for serving halal meat.

Last month, IndiGo, a low cost airline, faced online campaign calling for its boycott for serving halal meat on its flights.

A 40-year-old man’s refusal to receive food by a Muslim delivery executive from Zomato earlier this month stirred a public debate on the rising Islamophobia in India – home to nearly 170 million Muslims.

The food delivery company responded by saying that “Food doesn’t have a religion. It is a religion.”

But not everyone was bothered by the use of halal menu.

“As a non-Muslim, I do not care where my chicken is coming from. I am more concerned about the processing it goes through, the packaging, the amount of nutrition and carcinogens it contains,” said Sushmita, a researcher based in New Delhi, who only gave one name.

“This everyday pitting of one community against another, in matters that were private earlier, or didn’t concern a larger public, is a slow and steady way to try to instill hatred in the very fabric of the society and keep a community always on the edge, so that they feel less and less safe,” she told Al Jazeera.

Nishita Sood from Delhi told Al Jazeera that this campaign is nothing but a form of prejudice and bigotry against Muslims.

“The entire nation is suffering from it. They are just making an issue out of a non-issue because of their hatred,” she said.