New Delhi, India – 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.
Many questioned why McDonald’s was serving halal meat in India where 80 percent of the 1.3 billion people are Hindus. The McDonald’s menu in India has no beef or pork products, serving instead a range of vegetarian options as well as chicken and fish.
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. Halal certification indicates that animals were slaughtered according to the Muslim tradition.
All our restaurants have HALAL certificates. You can ask the respective restaurant Managers to show you the certificate for your satisfaction and confirmation. (2/2)
— McDonald's India (@mcdonaldsindia) August 22, 2019
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 branded McDonald’s insensitive for not using the “jhatka” method, another form of slaughter in which the animal’s head is severed in a single blow.
Others alluded to the hypocrisy of some people who earlier this month had called on Muslims not to slaughter sacrificial animals on Eid al-Adha and to celebrate an “eco-friendly” Eid.
Some activists said this 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.”
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.
“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.”
But not everyone was bothered by the 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 instil 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.
McDonald’s is not the first company that has faced the ire of right-wing Hindu groups in India for serving halal meat.
Last month, IndiGo, a low-cost airline, faced an online campaign calling for its boycott for serving halal meat on its flights.
A 40-year-old man’s refusal to receive food delivered by a Muslim driver from Zomato earlier this month stirred public debate on 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.”