Hot dogs are stacked up before the start of Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest in the Coney Island section of New York
The name hotdog has now become a religious issue in Muslim-majority Malaysia.REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Malaysia's religious body has come under ridicule after it ordered food outlets in the country to rename hotdogs or risk having their halal certification refused. The ruling covers all food items that has the word 'dog' in it.

The Department of Islamic Development's director of halal division Sirajuddin Suhaimee said: "In Islam, dogs are considered unclean and the name cannot be related to halal certification. Any [halal] products that make consumers confused, we have to change."

Sirajuddin said that the decision was taken following complaints from Muslim tourists from overseas.

"The improvement process is being conducted from time to time. Malaysia's good name as a pioneering 'halal global' figure needs to be improved," he told The Star.

The religious authority will carry out checks on a systematic basis when the outlets renew their two-year halal certification with the body.

Hotdogs are sold by street vendors and halal restaurants in Malaysia. US pretzel chain Aunty Anne's which has 45 outlets in Malaysia told AFP that it plans to follow the advice from the authorities and change the name of Pretzel Dogs — its sausages wrapped with pretzels.

"It's a minor issue. We are fine with changing the name and are still working on it," said Farhatul Kamilah Mohamed Sazali, its halal executive at Aunty Anne's in Malaysia.

In her Facebook posting, Farhatul explained that she had made several suggestions for a new name for its Pretzel Dog. She said she is waiting for the religious body's panel to make a decision before the chain can change its menu.

Sirajuddin has recommended that the restaurant's pretzel dogs be called pretzel sausages instead.

The Associated Press said that another US fast food chain A&W had to change its famous root beer to RB on its menu and hot dogs are now being called coneys and franks, short for frankfurters.

Social media slams religious body for being an English language adviser

Social media users took the opportunity to criticise the religious body for its stance. One Facebook user said: "Please stick to religion ... don't be an English language adviser."

Another said: "Pet shops please rename your dogs as sausages." Another person suggested on Twitter: "I guess pretzel dog should be changed to pretzel dachshund. Our people wouldn't know [the difference]".

Social activist and the daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said in her Facebook: "Oh we poor easily confused Muslims who have never heard of hot dogs before."

Sirajuddin however dismissed the criticisms, saying: "We are doing our jobs, by the law."