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<nettime> Harold Feld: .halal and .kosher
nettime's_roving_reporter on Tue, 16 Jul 2013 02:29:42 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Harold Feld: .halal and .kosher


Is Sauce for the .Halal Goose Sauce for the .Kosher Gander At The ICANN
Meeting In Durban?

   By [20]Harold {Feld} | July 15, 2013

   A rather peculiar circumstance has come to my attention over the new
   generic top level domain (gTLD) process currently chugging along at the
   [21]Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). As is
   so often the case with such things, it is at the same time both trivial
   and highly illustrative of the problem of dealing with a global medium
   where symbols have semantic meaning as well as functionality.

   It also highlights the bind for the U.S. Government. Other governments
   are free to weigh in on behalf of various orgs and groups that petition
   them for help, if those governments so choose. The U.S., because if its
   relationship with ICANN, faces serious political problems if it weighs
   in with regard to TLD policy. This does not preclude the U.S. from
   acting if it wants (as folks who remember the .[22]XXX controversy will
   recall). Nevertheless, for the U.S. to preserve the integrity of the
   process and avoid accusations of meddling, it needs to tread very
   cautiously before wading in on behalf of any specific TLD or objection.

   All of which brings us to the current case. It involves the treatment
   of two proposed gTLDs, ".kosher" and ".halal." They have similar
   meanings to their respective communities, and similar concerns arise
   from allowing their use. We can certainly say to both communities
   "sorry, but nothing requires you to respect the designation of the gTLD
   manager, so just learn to live with it." Alternatively, we might say
   "these TLDs raise some questions that impact these communities
   disproportionately, lets deal with them differently than from regular
   applications." But it would be hard to justify treating the terms
   differently from a principled standpoint. the objections to one apply
   equally to the other -- or not.

   There is, however, a rather important political difference: there are
   about ten to twenty times more people in the world who (potentially)
   care about .halal than care about .kosher.  in fact, there are probably
   more people in the city of Cairo who would care if .halal were held by
   a Shia rather than a Sunni than there are people in the world who care
   if .kosher is held by someone who ho holds by chalav yisroel or not.
   (The vast majority of the world, of course, does not even know what the
   last sentence even means.)

   Also, as discussed below, while certain governments have voiced
   objections in the ICANN [23]Government Advisory Committee (GAC) have
   voiced objections to the .halal TLD, no one has for .kosher. (Israel
   does not participate in the GAC, for those who jumped to the next
   logical question.) This has prompted the kosher organizations objecting
   to the .kosher TLD application to send letters to [24]Commerce
   Secretary Pritzker, as well as ICANN Chair [25]Fadi Chehade asking for
   reassurance that .kosher and .halal will be treated the same. While
   there is no indication that they won't, we Jews do not take equal
   treatment for granted (it's a history thing, got an hour for me to
   explain it? No? So trust me on this . . .) As noted above, this
   potentially puts the U.S. in something of a bind.

   Which brings me to the peculiar story of .kosher and the question of
   whether it will or will not be treated like .halal. Because whatever
   the actual outcome, it would be nice to think that the two communities
   will be treated with equal fairness regardless of size or political
   clout. I mean, no one really expects it, but it would be nice.

   As an initial matter, I need to stress more than usual that this is my
   personal blog and not that of my employer, Public Knowledge. Public
   Knowledge does not have any position on any of the issues around the
   expansion of the Internet name space and doesn't generally do anything
   in the ICANN space.

   My personal connection with this is that a dear friend of mine is a
   Rabbi involved with one of the kosher certification orgs protesting the
   .kosher TLD and he mentioned this to me. It is rare enough that my
   religious and professional life so perfectly intersect, so I have
   indulged myself and blogged about it.

   What's Up With .Kosher?

   For those looking for background, the Jewish concept of "kosher" means,
   generally, `fit for use.'  Applied to food, it means food that applies
   to the extremely complex dietary laws that we Jewish people have picked
   up over the last 3,000 years. The bulk of these come from the Bible and
   practices settled in place during the Talmudic period about 2000 years

   Cultural drift from being in different communities around the world,
   and the ever-growing complexity of the modern food production, have
   created huge diversity of opinion among the various Jews who care about
   kosher laws.

   The split likewise applies to the various organizations that exist that
   provide kosher certification. There are hundreds of organizations
   around the world that provide certification to manufacturers and
   restauranteurs and other providers of food services certification that
   they are kosher and therefore suitable for those of us who keep kosher.
   But, since standards vary so much, the next natural question is "is
   this a heksher (a word meaning `symbol of kosherness' or `kosher
   certifying authority' I can trust?" For this, everyone has a somewhat
   different answer. Sometimes the dispute is over legal opinions (e.g.,
   this org concludes something like gelatin derived from animals is o.k.,
   but my personal standard holds it is not kosher). Sometimes it has to
   do with the perceived trustworthiness of the organization (e.g.,
   Organization Y claims to inspect the food plant but they really just
   show up and collect a check).

   None of which matters to 99.99% of people in the world. But for the
   .01% who care, we care very intensely.

   Which brings us to the application for the [26].kosher generic top
   level domain (gTLD). One of the U.S.-based kosher certifying
   organizations, (the Committee for the Advancement of Torah, which give
   [27]the OK kosher certification) applied for the .kosher TLD through a
   corporate entity called Kosher Marketing Assets LLC (which is the
   official name of the applicant) ([28]Application here). The five
   largest competing kosher certifying orgs in the U.S. and Canad --
   [29]The Orthodox Union (which gives the OU certification), the[30]
   Star-K, The [31]Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC), [32]Kashrus Council
   of Canada, and [33]Kosher Supervision Services, Inc. (called the Chof-K
   and whose symbol is in Hebrew letters I can't reproduce here) -- filed
   a protest against the application a filed a protest  on the grounds
   that no one organization can say what constitutes "kosher" and that
   assigning .kosher to a single organization (or any organization) would
   create serious problems for the impacted community.

   Of note to my friends who keep kosher, none of the orgs challenging the
   TLD application have raised any questions about the standards or
   acceptability of the OK. So OK is still o.k. if you held by OK before.
   O.k.? Good.

   How Did .halal Get Into This?

   So far, we have a run of the mill objection on par with what we expect
   in this kind of process. Nor is .kosher the only religiously
   significant word up for grabs, which brings us to the next part of our

   At the ICANN Meeting in Beijing a few months the Government Advisory
   Committee (GAC) met and, as usually, issued a [34]Communique which
   touched on, among other things, government objections and concerns with
   regard to the never-ending process of selecting new TLDs. Of relevance
   here, the GAC noted that words pertaining to religion are particularly
   sensitive. All fine so far. But two GAC members: Saudi Arabia and
   India, raised particular objections to .halal as needing to comply with
   their own national halal laws and raising concerns that the issuance of
   the TLD would be particularly divisive and offensive to certain parts
   of the Islamic community.

   The same objections apply to .kosher of course, just on a much, much
   smaller scale. But no country raised concerns about .kosher. Israel,
   the one country in the world that has Judaism as its state religion,
   does not participate in the GAC. Also, with two chief Rabbis and a host
   of religious sects that refuse to acknowledge each other's authority,
   and with a large secular population that regards kosher laws as, and I
   am paraphrasing the Hebrew here, "a stupid pain in the ass," it's not
   exactly clear what Israel would say if it did participate in the GAC.

   Reaction to the Beijing Communique

   Mind you, it's not so clear that GAC objections carry the day here.
   There are [35]good reasons why ICANN should try to minimize its
   involvement in the gTLD selection process. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker,
   [36]while acknowledging that GAC advice "carries a lot of weight," has
   also said that the Beijing Communique is not "the end of the story."
   Besides, with only two countries lodging specific objections to .halal,
   the advice on .halal specifically is not considered "consensus advice"
   from the GAC but rather is simply considered comments from the specific
   country. Again, that carries weight, but how much and what will happen
   remains unclear.

   So the Kashrus orgs objecting to the .kosher TLD have spent the time
   since the Beijing meeting in April pushing to get confirmation that
   whatever happens with .halal, .kosher will get equal treatment. This
   should seem fairly straightforward and obvious, except (a) nothing in
   ICANN is ever straightforward and obvious, and (b) No one has bothered
   to provide these guys with the reassurance they want that .kosher will
   be treated equally in the process as .halal.

   A Bind For The U.S.

   Not surprisingly, the objecting Kashrus organizations have [37]asked
   that the Commerce Department weigh in with ICANN that it treat .kosher
   and .halal the same way -- whatever that means. Unfortunately, the
   Commerce Department has excellent reasons to avoid any perception it is
   meddling in the process on behalf of any particular set of applicants
   or objectors. After all, the "special relationship" between the U.S.
   and ICANN is a constant source of friction between the U.S. and other
   countries and is always brought up by those who would like to eliminate
   ICANN or move its functions to some presumably more "neutral" place.
   (And, lets face it, the fact that the world is pissed at us for NSA
   spying, while not relevant to ICANN, doesn't help.)

   At the same time, pretty much every government has the right to weigh
   in on behalf of its citizens, companies, or groups within its boarders
   that ask it to do so. Should U.S. interests be at a disadvantage
   because of the U.S.-ICANN relationship?

   But is this really something Commerce ought to weigh in on anyway?

   My Personal View -- Protect The Integrity of the Process By Treating
   Like Applications The Same.

   My purely personal view is that the best way to protect the integrity
   of the process is to treat like applications the same. There is no real
   distinction, other than size of community (and its political clout)
   between the community impacted by .halal and the community impacted by
   .kosher. If ICANN thinks it needs to minimize involvement in TLD
   selection, that applies to both .halal and .kosher. If it wants to
   respect religious sensitivities, I can assure you that Jews are plenty
   sensitive on the question of what is and isn't kosher just as Muslims
   are sensitive to the appropriate standard for halal.

   Nor does it compromise the Department of Commerce to urge the GAC to
   reaffirm that like applications should be treated alike, or even to
   affirm such a basic principle on its own. Fundamental fairness ought to
   be the cornerstone of any process worthy of respect. The Commerce
   Department (hopefully with the rest of the GAC) can certainly affirm
   that general proposition without pressuring ICANN as to how to make a
   particular disposition. Simply treat everyone the same.


   It's an old saying that "[38]What's sauce for the goose is sauce for
   the gander." That applies even if the goose is halal and the gander is
   kosher. While it may expect too much for the ongoing ICANN meeting in
   Durban to resolve the substantive objections with regard to either
   .kosher or .halal, I would hope that ICANN could at least answer one
   question: will like applications with like community objections be
   treated the same? Also hopefully, the answer will be "yes."

   Stay tuned . . . .

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   Visible links


  20. http://www.wetmachine.com/author/harold/
  21. http://www.icann.org/
  22. http://www.inventa.com/news/the_controversy_around_the_new_xxx_top_level_domain
  23. https://gacweb.icann.org/display/gacweb/Governmental+Advisory+Committee
  24. http://www.wetmachine.com/?attachment_id=4360
  25. http://www.wetmachine.com/?attachment_id=4361
  26. http://icannwiki.com/index.php/.kosher
  27. http://www.ok.org/
  28. http://domainia.com/tlds/KOSHER/application/1-1013-67544
  29. http://www.ou.org/
  30. http://www.star-k.org/
  31. http://www.crcweb.org/
  32. http://www.cor.ca/
  33. http://www.kof-k.org/
  34. http://www.icann.org/en/news/correspondence/gac-to-board-11apr13-en
  35. http://www.circleid.com/posts/20130514_gac_beijing_communique_inconsistent_with_icann/
  36. http://domainincite.com/12673-gac-advice-on-new-gtlds-not-the-end-of-the-story
  37. http://www.wetmachine.com/?attachment_id=4360
  38. http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/What%27s+sauce+for+the+goose

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