Posts falsely claim that Malaysian bubble tea brand 'declared not halal'

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Recirculated Facebook posts have falsely claimed that the Malaysian government agency responsible for Islamic affairs (JAKIM) declared the bubble tea chain Tealive is "haram", or forbidden in Islam. The claim purports the information came from a Malaysian Muslim preacher. Tealive and the Malaysian government agency responsible for Islamic affairs (JAKIM) both separately have confirmed that the company holds the official "halal" certificate -- meaning its products are permissible for Muslims to consume. The Islamic preacher named in the posts has also denied that he made the false claim, which has circulated online since at least 2019.

The false claim was shared here on Facebook on February 8, 2023.

It reads: "Bye bye Tealive...Tealive has been declared haram! by JAKIM", referring to the Malaysian government's agency responsible for Islamic affairs, including halal certification in the country.

It then cites assorted Tealive products, which it claims contain ingredients that are haram -- or not permissible -- for Muslims, such as pork and alcohol.

It credits the claim to Malaysian Muslim preacher Zahazan Mohamed.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on February 20, 2023

Tealive, a Malaysian chain established in 2017, is best known for its bubble tea, a popular Taiwanese tea-based drink with tapioca pearls.

The claim was also shared on Facebook here, here and here; and on Twitter here.

Similar false posts have circulated for years: in 2021, 2020 and even as far back as 2019.

Certified halal

Some of Tealive's cafes serve hot food and snacks, but as shown by its menu, it does not sell any pork products.

On February 8, 2023, Tealive told AFP that it was aware of the false posts circulating regarding its halal status and that "the accusations are completely false".

It also referred AFP to JAKIM's statement confirming Tealive's halal status, which was uploaded on Facebook on October 17, 2021.

"We have again received many inquiries regarding the halal status of Tealive cafe. As usual.. it has gone viral repeatedly and has been explained by us since 2019," the Jakim statement said.

A separate JAKIM statement issued on September 5, 2019, reads in part: "For (your) information, the viral post modified by the irresponsible party is NOT TRUE. We confirm that the Tealive cafe operated by the company Loob Integrated Sdn Bhd is a holder of a valid Malaysian Halal Certification Certificate."

JAKIM confirmed with AFP that, as of February 2023, Tealive holds a valid halal certificate and the company is listed in JAKIM's Halal Malaysia directory.

Below is a screenshot from the Halal Malaysia Official Portal website, which shows Tealive -- through its parent company, Loob Integrated Sdn Bhd -- has valid halal certification:

A screenshot from the Halal Malaysia Official Portal website, which shows Tealive has valid halal certification

The preacher named in the false posts, Zahazan Mohamed, also dismissed the claim on February 3, 2023, on his official Facebook page.

"I have made several police reports related to this issue to protect my good name as I have never 'banned' these drinks," he wrote.

Zahazan's name was also misused in social media posts that falsely claimed Starbucks had been deemed haram by JAKIM -- which AFP has debunked here.

AFP also fact-checked similar religious misinformation that targeted the halal status of other international food products -- from Coca-Cola to Ajinomoto -- in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation.