An administrative proposal to mandate separate supermarket trolleys for non-halal products is unnecessary as such items are already stocked in segregated sections, independent Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin said.
He also pointed out that the non-halal food items in supermarkets are not in direct contact with the trolleys as they are packaged.
“The reason why the issue of segregation does not have to arise from this angle is because the segregation to buy alcohol and pork already exists. Muslims will not buy pork in supermarkets,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.
“Because if one goes to the supermarket, the pork is not placed in the trolley, it is placed in packaging.
“If the (packaged) pork is put into the trolley and after that Muslims use (the trolley), the trolley doesn’t have to be washed as the pork is in packaging,” he added.
In a report by Utusan Malaysia dated November 6, Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said his ministry was considering imposing new laws to segregate trolleys at supermarkets nationwide and proposed using trolleys of different colours, such as red for non-halal products.
Hamzah has reportedly said that the proposal to legislate the segregation of supermarket trolleys was still at the discussion stage and required comprehensive study due to the expected high costs that supermarket operators will have to bear.
Citing multiple complaints received about shoppers insisting on paying for non-halal products at regular checkout counters, Hamzah also said all supermarket operators have a responsibility to provide segregated check-out counters.
Wan Ji agreed that the issue of dedicated trolleys for packaged halal and non-halal items was different from the matter of Muslims refraining from eating a meal made using utensils that had previously been in direct contact with non-halal food such as pork, or from eating out of kitchenware that had been used to serve non-halal food, even if they have been washed.
Wan Ji said although the Quran is clear that pork and alcohol are forbidden to Muslims, the issue of segregation of containers for “halal” (permissible) and “haram” (forbidden) things does not arise in the religion and there is only Islamic tradition on the cleansing of containers that had touched forbidden items.
Under the Shafi’i school of thought that is predominant in Malaysia, containers that had touched non-halal things such as pork have to be washed seven times with water, with soil to be used in any of these seven times, before it can be used again by a Muslim, Wan Ji explained.
As for other schools of thought in Islam like Maliki that is widely practised in countries like Tunisia and Morocco, there is no need for the container to be cleansed seven times and it needs only to be washed as usual before it can be reused by a Muslim, he said.
“If the government proposes without involving enforcement of laws, that is easy. But if it involves the law, problems will crop up, because I feel this issue will distance the relationship between Malays, Chinese and Indians; Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said, suggesting that this matter could have been raised to associate racial issues with Islam.
It should be left to the supermarkets on whether they want to implement such a proposal, he said, adding that he would agree if these outlets voluntarily introduce such measures for the convenience of Muslim shoppers.
Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, however, said he supported the government’s proposal to segregate trolleys and checkout counters at supermarkets, citing a hadith, which is a teaching attributed to Prophet Muhammad.
“Yes, the teachings of Islam (say that) non-halal and halal things cannot mix, must be segregated. I support the proposed law.
“He said in the Prophet’s hadith — ‘When a haram thing mixes with halal, then it will all be haram’,” Harussani told Malay Mail Online.
The Islamic scholar explained that both halal and non-halal items must be kept apart, noting as example that pork cannot be shipped together with beef in the same container on ships and that there has to be separate freezers for such items.