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Malaysia: Government religious body rules “hot dogs” must be renamed

Food outlets selling hot dogs in Malaysia have been asked to rename their products or risk being refused halal certification.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department, a religious government body, said it adopted the ruling after complaints from Muslim tourists.

Director Sirajuddin Suhaimee said the name might cause “confusion”.

“In Islam, dogs are considered unclean and the name cannot be related to halal certification,” he said.

Malaysian halal food guidelines say “halal food and halal artificial flavor shall not be named or synonymous named after non-halal products such as ham, bak kut teh, bacon, beer, rum and others that might create confusion,” local media said.

Muslim-majority Malaysia practices a moderate form of Islam but conservative attitudes are on the rise.

‘Pretzel Sausage’

On Monday, popular pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s was refused halal certification unless it renamed its “Pretzel Dog”. Mr Suhaimee said it was “more appropriate” to call it a “Pretzel Sausage”.

A representative of the US chain described it as a “minor issue” and said the firm was fine with changing the name on the menu.

‘Hot dog is hot dog lah’

Malaysian Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz slammed the ruling, calling it “stupid and backward”.

“Hot dog is hot dog lah. Even in Malay it’s called hot dog – it’s been around for so many years. I’m a Muslim and I’m not offended,” he told reporters, adding that there was no reason for the religious body to take offense at the word.

“It comes from the English language. Please do not make us seem stupid and backward.”

The ruling has also garnered ridicule and stirred debate among Malaysians on social media.

“It’s just a name, what does it have to do with whether it’s halal or not? Muslims should be more concerned with ingredients and the way food is prepared,” wrote Eeman Yusof on Facebook.

“You can always count on the authorities to make us look stupid,” said another Malaysian Matt Razal.

Another Facebook user said: “Pet shops please rename your dogs as sausages.”

“It is complications like this that make our country move backwards,” commented YL Chew.

Activist and columnist Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, criticized the request by the Department of Islamic Development – also known as Jakim.

“Oh we poor easily confused Muslims who have never heard of hot dogs before and who will have no choice but to buy one if one was on the menu,” she said in a Facebook post that was shared close to 2,000 times.

Malaysia often prides itself on being a moderate Muslim nation, which allows other religions freedom of worship.

In recent years, there has been greater emphasis on Islamic codes of conduct.

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