Tuesday, March 28

Salahuddin: ‘Menu Rahmah’ label maintained for non-halal affordable eateries, govt initiative is for all


Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub speaks during an interview at Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur March 13, 2023. – Malay Mail photo

KUALA LUMPUR (March 19): Minister of Domestic Trade and Costs of Living Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said the “Menu Rahmah” affordable food initiative will be extended to non-halal restaurants nationwide, so needy non-Muslims can also benefit when dining in their preferred outlets.

Salahuddin who mooted the initiative told Malay Mail during an interview that the term “rahmah” itself means compassion that goes beyond race and religion, despite its Arabic roots and usage in Islam.

“We use the ‘Rahmah’ [label]for other packages so why stop at non-halal food, ‘Rahmah’ is for all,” he said during the recent interview at Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) headquarters here.

Falling under the “Payung Rahmah” grand initiative, the tags also encompass the “Bakul Rahmah” groceries aid, “Pakej Rahmah” package of 10 essential goods sold at cheaper prices, the “Jualan Rahmah” series of sales by supermarkets, and “Kafe Rahmah” — an expansion of “Menu Rahmah” to serve students.

The minister also said that he had previously proposed for the initiative to be expanded to non-halal restaurants but with a different name: “Menu Kasih Sayang”.

Salahuddin admitted his concerns about how certain parties might have a different perspective on the decision to maintain the “Rahmah” label for non-halal food despite its non-religious connotation.

This comes amid a heightened ethnic and religious atmosphere in the past few weeks following inflammatory remarks from Perikatan Nasional leaders.

However, Salahuddin told Malay Mail he strongly believes that Malaysians particularly Muslims would understand that the label was coined for the government’s initiative to help the poor’s welfare regardless of ethnicity and belief.

“We want to promote inclusiveness, [the ‘Rahmah’ initiative]is for all, that’s the most important thing. Islam teaches us that a government has to help everyone, we cannot segregate or discriminate,” he added.

Salahuddin said the plan is already in place as the ministry has engaged non-halal eateries associations and had received positive feedback with many expressing interest in the initiative.

Addressing a backbencher’s concern about the lack of vegetarian food options at rest and service areas (R&Rs) nationwide, Salahuddin said the ministry will bring the matter to the Cabinet meeting for further deliberations.

“I will discuss with relevant stakeholders and other ministries on the matter,” he said.

Previously, Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Ipoh Barat MP M.Kulasegaran had voiced in Parliament his concern that there was a lack of vegetarian options at most of the R&Rs.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the finance minister, had vowed to address cost-of-living issues, pledging that it would be his top priority.

This came amid shaky public confidence in his Cabinet line-up after he appointed several leaders from past administrations accused of poor management of the economy.

Menu Rahmah was launched on January 31 by Salahuddin as part of the unity government’s short-term efforts to mitigate the inflation squeeze on low-income earners.

Around 12,000 premises are currently offering Menu Rahmah, including restaurants affiliated with the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association and Mydin supermarket outlets nationwide.

Last week, Salahuddin said that a total of 1,531 businesses have registered to implement the Menu Rahmah initiative and the number is expected to continue to increase. – Malay Mail