Intro: Halal certification is carried out according to religious laws but many is against this brutal practice and demanding for its ban claiming that the tax generated from it is used for funding terrorist activities after realising that the money paid towards Halal Tax was not accounted.
There is a controversy ranging in Australia over what is known as the Halal Tax. The Public opinion is turning against the hefty sums being paid to the Islamic organisations, paid by the abattoirs to certify the processed meat and the milk products as halal processed. Australia is one of the major exporters of meat and milk products. These products are exported to the Muslim countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and many Arab countries of West Asia. Halal food is prepared according to Islamic law, and is free from pork products, alcohol and certain other ingredients. A variety of Islamic groups are involved in Halal certification, with companies who wish their products to carry a Halal label paying fees for inspection and certification. Muslims of all sects, irrespective of their internecine feuds have one thing common that they consume only the halal meat. The Islamic institutions, deploying only Muslim representatives for certification, in turn paid tax, known as Halal Tax. Australian exports to these Islamic countries are very high and range in billion of AU Dollars. As the figures are made available, a single abattoir was paying AU$ 75.000 per month as the Halal Tax, while for the dairy products the Halal Tax comes to AU$ 25,000. There are several such establishments which have to shell out millions of AU$ to various Islamic Institutions.
It was a real surprise to the Australian citizens when they realised that the money paid towards Halal Tax was not accounted. ABC Fact Check, associated with a powerful media group, determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate. In a Fact check conducted survey of the halal processing units, it was revealed that there are no regulations compelling Australian companies and organisations that certify Halal foods to disclose their fees publicly. Few food manufacturers who sell halal-certified foods in Australia or for export, or the organisations that certify them, were willing to tell Fact Check how much they pay, or are paid, for certification. Processed food companies, who generally pay a set yearly fee for halal certification, were more willing to talk, but few would disclose exactly what this costs. The Byron Bay Cookie Company said its annual halal certification fee was around $1,500 a year.
Saad Al-Shumaimry, director of the Muslim World League for Australia and New Zealand told Fact Check that his organisation did not charge local certification companies fees for endorsing their halal certification status. Gaafar Mohammed, a senior auditor and meat inspector with the Islamic Co-ordinating Council of Victoria (ICCV) told Fact Check the company did not pay any fees to overseas organisations for their certification recognition. Hasan Tanrikut, a halal supervisor from the Global Halal Trade Centre Pty Ltd told Fact Check that certifications of abattoirs for example, which are done four times a year, cost approximately $2,000 to $3,000 per audit. Andrew Trigg, director of government and media relations for Graincorp, says the company's halal certification is a “pretty minor” cost. These claims are to be accepted with a pinch of salt for reliability.
When it comes to certifying domestic foods, such as biscuits and milk, a Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said the department had no involvement in these arrangements and it was a commercial matter between food businesses and certifying organisations. The department has an “Approved Arrangement” with 21 Islamic organisations to certify halal meat and red meat products for export.
Halal certification recognition is controlled in Indonesia by the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI—The Indonesian Council of Ulama). In February, 2014 Indonesia’s Tempo news magazine published allegations that several Australian halal certification companies had paid bribes to MUI officials to maintain their licenses. MUI denying the allegations said companies were only asked to pay travel expenses for auditors. It is to be noted here that none of the companies or organisations that certify Halal meat in Australia are public companies, so there is no public audit or accountability. According to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission register, the Supreme Islamic Council of Halal Meat in Australia Inc (SICHMA) is a large charity with revenue over $1 million, but no financial reports are available. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Inc (AFIC) is a registered charity, dedicated to promoting halal food and the institution of halal. Its financial statements show it earned an income of $2.8 million in 2012, of which $647,722 came from Halal certification fees, after expenses.
Links with terrorist organisations
After the allegations of irregularities in payments and accountability, inquiries were made about pattern of utilisation of the huge sums procured as Halal Tax. The Islamic organisations obviously denied having any links with the terrorist organisations. However the public opinion is turning against the Halal Tax. The accepted norm is only Muslims can work in the Halal industry has become a major contentious issue for the locals as it is another form of religious reservation. Secondly, only a Muslim organisation to be selected for certification keeps Australians away for the major quality control. Besides this, Australia has a record of radicalisation of the local youth and many have gone to Syria for fighting with IS, diverting money for terrorist activities is another concern.
Some political figures have taken up this issue right in earnest. A study commissioned by the parliamentary library, exposed some “surprising facts” that alarmed the Tasmanian senator, Jacqui Lambie her. “Given that our enemies in Islamic State are receiving a steady cash flow to control their caliphate in Syria and Iraq, why isn’t there a legal requirement in Australia for Halal certification fees to be disclosed?” Senator Lambie said. “And given that our nation is on high terrorism alert, while hundreds of Australian Islamic State sympathisers are fighting our ADF forces in Iraq, why is there is no formal reporting or auditing mechanism in Australia to ascertain whether monies paid for halal certification are misused?” Senator Lambie warned if the government failed to answer her questions, she would introduce legislation to close such “legal loopholes”. This is not an exception.
Companies that get products halal certified have been targets of a campaign that claims Halal certification funds terrorism. Conducted largely through social media and online networks, Australian anti-Islam groups have been demanding companies that carry Halal certification labels drop them.
Recently several rallies were held around Australia under the name ‘reclaim Australia’, in which anti-Halal tax campaign was a key demand. Speaking in defence of the reclaim Australia rallies, One Nation leader and founder Pauline Hanson told the Nine Network's Today program that Halal certification was a money-making racket.
As a result of these exposures many Australians have come out in open against the companies producing Halal products, and the Islamic organisations that are involved in certification by accepting the Halal Tax in return. They have boycotted products from these companies. In coming months social and political environment in Australia is going to hot up against the Halal tax.
What happens in India? Money flows for Wahabbi cause from the Arab counties. Pakistan pumps fake currency openly via Nepal route. Madrasas thrive on the hate speeches by the local mullahs. When an average Indian will wake up to the reality is a big question.
Dr Pramod Pathak (The writer is scholar of comparative religious studies and currently on his visit to Australia)
(July 12, 2015 Page 20-21)