Recycled posts falsely claim Starbucks is 'not halal in Malaysia'

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on January 31, 2023 at 11:47
  • 3 min read
  • By Arfa YUNUS, AFP Malaysia
Facebook posts have recirculated a years-old false claim that a Malaysian Muslim preacher has said Starbucks is "haram" -- forbidden in Islam -- in the Muslim-majority nation due to certain products he purportedly says it sells. The Malaysian government agency responsible for Islamic affairs (JAKIM) has confirmed that Starbucks, which does not sell pork products in Malaysia, holds the official halal certificate. A Starbucks Malaysia spokeswoman told AFP the company uses products that are vetted by JAKIM in all its outlets. The Islamic preacher named in the post has also denied that he made the false claim and asked social media users to stop sharing it.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on December 31, 2022, alongside a screenshot of another post that has been shared repeatedly in Malaysia since at least 2017.

It carries a photo of Malaysian Muslim preacher Zahazan Mohamed alongside a caption that claims he said Starbucks was declared "haram" in the Southeast Asian nation.

The December 2022 post's Malay-language caption translates to English as: "Too many people are influenced by this place. Whenever a place goes viral, everyone will flock there. Putting aside the halal-haram status."

Text on the screenshot reads in part: "Bye bye Starbucks...Starbucks has been declared haram! By JAKIM", referring to the Malaysian government's agency responsible for the Islamic affairs, including halal certification in the country.

It then mentions Starbucks' food and drink items that purportedly contain ingredients that are not permissible in Islam, such as pork and alcohol.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on January 26, 2023

"Halal" refers to foods that are permissible according to the dietary standard in Islam.

Similar claims have also been shared on Facebook here, here and here.

Similar posts have circulated since at least 2014, while earlier versions of the claim, such as those shared in 2009 and 2011, do not mention the Islamic preacher.

However, the claim is false.

Halal certificate

According to regional business news site ASEAN Briefing, foreign companies seeking a halal certification in Malaysia must apply to JAKIM, which will then conduct an on-site inspection of the applicant’s premises and may take product samples for laboratory analysis.

Starbucks does not sell pork products in Malaysia.

A Starbucks Malaysia spokeswoman confirmed to AFP the company's halal status on January 30, 2023.

"All products and ingredients used in Starbucks Malaysia must be registered and verified by JAKIM," she said.

"Products and ingredients used in all our outlets are the same and go through the same verification process by JAKIM."

On January 3, 2023, JAKIM issued a statement on Facebook, clarifying that Starbucks remained halal-certified in Malaysia.

“As we enter the year 2023, we still receive queries from consumers regarding the halal status of Starbucks which went viral about seven years ago,” it said.

In 2017, JAKIM said the claim about Starbucks has been recycled in multiple posts, and the religious body has debunked the allegation several times.

"A viral claim regarding a religious preacher declaring Starbucks as haram is haunting the cyber world again. This is a recycled issue which we have addressed on May 10, 2016 ... Starbucks holds the Malaysian Halal certificate and is still valid."

Starbucks holds halal certification from JAKIM and the company is listed in JAKIM's Halal Malaysia directory.

Below is a screenshot from the Halal Malaysia Official Portal website, which shows Starbucks Malaysia has a valid halal certification:

Screenshot from the Halal Malaysia Official Portal that shows Starbucks Malaysia has a valid halal certification

Zahazan Mohamed also dismissed the claim in June 2014, urging social media users to stop sharing false information.

"For those who have been sharing this message, please stop it because this is slander towards me," he wrote on his Facebook page.

AFP has debunked similar claims about products made by international corporations being haram -- such as Coca-Cola and Ajinomoto -- circulating in the Muslim-majority nation.

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