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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) called on the city government of General Santos on Thursday, May 18, to establish a dedicated area for halal food items at the local government-run Central Public Market.
The call comes in the wake of the discovery that several vendors were applying thin blood coating to fish slices to make them appear fresh.
Aida Seddic, NCMF provincial director, proposed the measure in response to the outrage expressed by Muslims and non-pork eaters after a team of market inspectors uncovered the deceptive practice on Monday, May 15.
Seddic said the proposal was previously presented to city hall during the previous administration but was not acted upon due to budgetary constraints.
The proposal involves the creation of a separate halal area, distinct from the existing meat, poultry, and seafood sections of the market.
Seddic explained that not all fish, particularly those sourced from fishponds and aquaculture farms, can be considered halal due to the use of certain feeds that may not adhere to halal standards.
For beef, lamb, mutton, or poultry to be considered halal, the animal must be slaughtered following Islamic guidelines and by a Muslim butcher, usually a religious figure. The butcher must then offer a prayer for blessings and express gratitude for the food.
The halal method of slaughter, locally known as Sumbali, requires the animal to be alive while a Muslim butcher swiftly slits its throat with a sharp blade, ensuring that the spinal cord remains intact while the blood is drained. Currently, all animals are slaughtered centrally at the General Santos City Abattoir.
Seddic said the NCMF was disturbed about the discovery of fish slices coated with pig’s blood being sold at the Central Public Market. She described this practice as “horrible” and “disrespectful” towards Muslims.
“Muslims and Christians are coexisting peacefully, and so, it is shocking to discover such practices,” Seddic said.
She said the local government has already implemented five ordinances focused on Muslim welfare and local measures for halal food.
Seddic said the discovery was a matter of serious concern not only for public health but also for religious sensibilities and the Muslims’ way of life.
Seddic said the discovery also showed the stereotyping, as she pointed out that many Muslim market-goers, particularly females who wear hijabs, are easily recognizable.
“Why do these vendors continue to sell Muslims fish slices laced with pig’s blood instead of just refusing to sell to them?” Seddic said.
Ustadz Alnor Baghdad Mohammad Tan, an Alim of the Mohammad Mosque, joined the call for the establishment of a dedicated area at the public market for slaughtering and selling halal food.
He said there was a need to separate halal items from non-halal ones, as their proximity can compromise the status of the halal food.
Tan deplored the use of pig’s blood on fish, stating that exposure to non-halal products puts Muslims at risk of straying from their adherence to halal practices.
He explained that consuming pork and pig’s blood is considered haram (forbidden) in Islam, and engaging in a single act of haram can void their religious practices, such as prayer and fasting.
On Monday, May 15, market inspectors apprehended several vendors selling fish slices coated with pig’s blood. City hall promptly closed at least six stalls at the public market and initiated investigations into their owners.
Seeing the incident as a public health issue, city hall said the stalls will remain closed pending the results of an investigation conducted by a market committee. The committee will determine whether the stallholders’ contracts should be revoked or not.
Seddic, meanwhile, said there were other Muslim concerns in General Santos, such as the sale of chicken at certain stalls being passed off as halal food without certification from accredited halal-certifying bodies.
She said some vendors were also selling pre-cut vegetables laced with formalin to maintain a fresh appearance, posing a public health issue for Muslims and non-Muslims.
“This is a serious malpractice with health consequences,” she said. – Rappler.com