Malaysia reverses bakery Christmas greeting ban after public uproar

19 Dec 2023 04:26pm
Pix for illustration purpose only. - Photo by AFP
Pix for illustration purpose only. - Photo by AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Halal-certified bakeries in largely Muslim Malaysia can now put Christmas greetings on cakes for their customers, religious authorities said, reversing a three-year-old ban following public uproar.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) said Monday that the new directive replaces a previous order which barred the businesses from writing Merry Christmas on their products.

The new ruling came after an internal memo from popular bakery chain Berry's telling staff not to write Christmas greetings on their cakes was shared widely online since last weekend.

"To be informed for this coming Christmas Festival Celebration we are strictly not allowed to write the words of Merry Christmas or X'Mas on any cakes even (if) requested by the customer," according to the memo, which cited halal regulations from Jakim.

Staff were advised to use a "Season's greetings" topper instead.

"Will having the word Merry Christmas on the cake make all the cakes in the shop non-halal?. So please respect all cultures!," one Facebook user commented about the policy.

Jakim, the country's Islamic affairs agency, said in a statement that "it is clear that there are no obstacles for business premises that have Malaysia halal certification to write any festive greetings on cake orders or similar".

The agency said its "previous statements in 2020 are not applicable" anymore, and released an image of the Berry's memo with its statement.

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Jakim also said it will "review and re-evaluate" matters related to the Malaysian halal certification procedure.

A Berry's representative told AFP on Tuesday that the internal memo "was meant for internal use".

"Now we follow Jakim guidelines and customers can write the Christmas wishes," said the representative, who declined to give her full name. "We hope this issue can come to an end."

Muslims account for about two-thirds of Malaysia's 34 million people, with large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. Christians comprise about 10 percent of the population.

Malaysia regularly hosts international trade fairs on halal products and is positioning itself as a world leader in halal certification to meet the demands of Muslim consumers worldwide.

Halal certification for products is increasingly sought after by manufacturers in a bid to tap into a lucrative Muslim consumer market which Malaysian officials estimate will be worth five trillion dollars globally by 2030 from three trillion dollars currently. - AFP

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