The age-old, perpetual debate of Haram vs Halal has once again been ignited in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. With the countries around the world scampering around to develop the vaccine and quickly distribute it amongst the masses, a unique divide is being seen in the Muslim world. While the progressive and the original Muslims of the World in the middle east are willing to take the vaccine even if it is not halal-certified, the new converts of South East Asia are casting aspersions over the decision.
According to news reports, the United Arab Emirates and its highest Islamic authority, the UAE Fatwa Council, has ruled that coronavirus vaccines are permissible for Muslims even if they contain pork gelatin. The council added that in this case, the pork gelatin is considered medicine, not food, with multiple vaccines already shown to be effective against a highly contagious virus that “poses a risk to the entire society”.
Indonesia rejecting non-Halal vaccines
However, the most populous Muslim country in the world – Indonesia has announced that any COVID-19 vaccine would have to be ‘Halal’ certified by the country’s Islamic clerical body. The decision came in the backdrop of more than 1 million doses of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovacthat arrived in Indonesia earlier this month.
The reader should note that Pork-derived gelatin has been widely used as a stabilizer to ensure vaccines remain safe and effective during storage and transport. Although there are vaccines that have non-pork gelatin, then again, the shelf life of such vaccines is considerably lower than those having pork-based gelatin.
The zeal of a fresh convert
For Muslims, the divide between black and white exists in the form of two words viz. Haram and Halal. Haram means prohibited and Halal stands for permissible. In a Muslim household pork and alcohol consumption is considered Haram and its use is forbidden by all means.
While a country like UAE is prepared to take the vaccine in any shape or form. And no specific resistance coming from the de facto leader of the Arab world viz. Saudi Arabia, one can easily ascertain that it is the zeal of fresh Muslim converts in the South East Asia region that is driving the demand for halal vaccines.
Already, there is an abundance of fearmongering complemented with the running of rumour mills which are adding to vaccine-related fears among the Muslim community worldwide. Such senseless Islamic authorisation of vaccines in Indonesia will only result in a global call by Muslims for ‘halal vaccines.’
Arab world need not wear its faith on its sleeve
Muslims of the Middle East are the “original” Muslims and they do not have to wear their faith on their sleeves, all the time. And this exactly is the reason why we do not see the kind of zealousness that can take away their own lives, as well as that of their fellow beings.
On the other hand, Muslims in South Asian countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and more so in a “Secular” country like India suffer from a severe identity crisis, and thus a “good” Muslim has to affirm his identity that much more zealousness, even if it means getting infected with a deadly virus.
Mecca Medina closed but Pakistan mosques open in Ramzan
When the pandemic was raging, the divide was visible in its full glory as well. The moment things went a little south in Saudi Arabia — the undisputable leader of the ‘Muslim world’ forbade pilgrims from touching the Kaba and later prayers were banned at the two most important Mosques in the world–Masjid al-Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi, in Mecca and Medina respectively.
However, the Imran Khan government of Pakistan succumbed to the clergy of the country and announced that the mosques will remain open during Ramzan even when the total number of cases in the Islamic country had crossed the ten thousand mark.
Halal sanitisers of Malaysia
As reported previously by TFI, due to the demarcation between Halal and Haram, Muslims of Malaysia had started selling so-called ‘Halal hand sanitisers’. Many of them had marketed the product as “Muslim friendly” since ethanol is used as a substitute for alcohol.
Sesiapa yg mencari Hand sanitizer
Bolehlah order dgn saya https://t.co/VzGW58JP8i
Alsoft Pure (Hand Sanitizer)
1 bottle RM59
Certified by KKM & Halal
LAKU KERAS GUYSS, CEPAT CEPAT PLACE YOUR ORDER‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/aRUCMSAqdW
— EikaSaleh (@SalehSyafiqah) March 18, 2020
Seeing a surge of searched for halal, non-alcoholic hand sanitizers & some online vendors selling them. No, it doesn't get absorbed via the skin; it evaporates. They are not effective. Please stop using religion to market pseudoscience. #COVID19
— Dr Sumaiya Shaikh (@Neurophysik) March 16, 2020
Religion has a strange way of associating itself with every aspect of human life. Now, in the face of a pandemic staring mankind, the life-saving vaccines are being embroiled in the controversy of religious correctness. We might survive the pandemic but the zeal of the fresh converts of the world will be difficult to nip in the bud.