MALAYSIA — A Malaysian bakery chain has apologised for asking its staff not to write Christmas greetings on its cakes despite customers’ request, after the issue kicked up a storm and the government reversed a three-year ban that prohibits halal-certified bakeries from doing so.
“We sincerely apologise to all our customers regarding the incident,” said Berry’s Cake House in a statement.
“This incident occurred due to our misinterpretation of the requirements for our halal certification.”
Last Saturday (Dec 16), an internal memo from the bakery chain prohibiting requests to decorate cakes with “Merry Christmas” or “Xmas greetings” went viral.
According to the memo, customers were given the option of using a “Season’s Greetings” cake topper instead. The memo added that this was because the bakery was abiding by the halal requirements set by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
“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.
However, the memo drew criticism from people and many accused the bakery of practising racism and discrimination, causing an uproar.
“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.
On Monday, Jakim 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 Berry’s memo with its statement.
Jakim also said it will “review and re-evaluate” matters related to the Malaysian halal certification procedure.
Religious affairs minister Na’im Mokhtar later clarified that there were no restrictions on festive greetings on cakes.
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 Berry’s Cake 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 per cent of the population.
The Southeast Asian country 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. AGENCIES