A far-right German politician’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has unleashed a wave of fury against an unlikely foe ― Toblerone, the Swiss chocolate bar.
Jörg Meuthen, a senior member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD), suggested on Facebook Monday that Toblerone’s recent decision to get its products halal-certified is proof of Europe’s supposed “Islamization.”
“Islamization does not take place ― neither in Germany nor in Europe,” Meuthen wrote sarcastically while sharing an article about the certification. “It is therefore certainly pure coincidence that the depicted, known chocolate variety is now certified as ‘HALAL.’”
The AfD has become the main opposition force in German politics and is the first far-right group to enter the German parliament since 1945. It is known for its nationalist, anti-refugee stances and condemnation of multi-culturalism.
Meuthen’s post riled up his followers, some of whom responded on Facebook by calling for a boycott of Toblerone because of its decision to get halal-certified.
The Arabic word “halal” simply means permissible. It is used by Muslims to denote items that fit within various Islamic requirements, such as restrictions against the pork-based gelatin found in some candies. Businesses that want to take advantage of the growing demand for halal foods often get their products verified by halal certification agencies. A similar process exists for businesses catering to Jewish customers who want to know that their food is certified kosher.
Toblerone, a brand known for its distinctive, triangle-shaped milk chocolate bars, is owned by the American company Mondelēz International, Inc. Mondelēz confirmed to HuffPost in an email that its Toblerone factory in Bern, Switzerland ― the only factory in the world that makes the candy ― is halal-certified.
Mondelēz spokesperson Valérie Moens said that this certification doesn’t mean Toblerone’s recipe has changed. The chocolate bar’s production process essentially met halal criteria even before the official certification, she said.
Mondelēz suggested the company’s decision to get halal-certified stemmed from a desire to cater to customers around the world.
“Our ambition is to make products everyone can enjoy,” the company said in a statement. “That is why it’s important to us to respond to the different preferences and food requirements of our broad range of consumers worldwide.”
Other chocolate brands, including Cadbury, Godiva, and Nestle, have also sought out halal certificates for certain products. It’s a decision that makes sense from a business perspective, since globally, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.
Still, businesses’ desire for halal certifications has fueled conspiracy theories among the far right about Islam’s influence on European communities. Last year, the English Defence League, a far-right group in Britain, called for a boycott against Cadbury after learning that some of its chocolates were certified halal.
Umar al-Qadri, technical director of the Ireland-based Department of Halal Certification, told CNN that those angered by Toblerone’s decision to get certified should do more research to learn what halal really means.
“They assume halal is negative when actually, it’s something very positive ― a higher standard of food safety.”
The negative reaction to Toblerone is “an expression of Islamophobia and nothing else,” he said.