Halal food certification in Australia is big business. Just ask Mohamed El-Mouelhy of the Halal Certification Authority. He got into the Halal food certification business for the profit, and what he does now with this cash is purely his own concern.
“What I do with my money is my business,” Said Mr El-Mouelhy. “Everybody supports their own faith, so why is supporting my own faith wrong but supporting other faiths is right?”
He certainly isn’t shy of spending thousands of dollars pursuing Kirralie Smith in a defamation case over her claims that Halal certification may sponsor international terrorism. In turn Mrs. Smith is counter suing Mr. El-Mouelhy for accusing her of being racist.
“He says he can back up his claims that I’m a racist and a bigot, and we’ll see whether he can.” Countered Smith. “…I’m pretty confident I’m not a racist or a bigot. I’m simply criticising an ideology, I’m not criticising a people, group or an individual.” 1
What Is Halal?
The best translation of Halal from the native Arabic is permissible. Halal cerification ensures that any food consumed by practicing Muslims is that the foods are free from any alcohol or pork, that the animal has been not been slaughtered by strangling or being beaten and that any trace of blood has been drained from the meat prior to processing. Halal certification of foods other than meet ensures that no animal glycerine such as in jellied lollies or traces of alchohol are present in the food from cleansing agents that can contain alcohol. There are indexes of Halal approved foods such as this one: 2
What is at stake?
At the crux of the matter is the profitability and ubiquitous nature of Halal certification. Many of our everyday products from Vegemite to Weet-Bix are certified Halal. Some, like Vegemite, display the Halal certification on the label. Most, like Weet-Bix, do not. The purported profit of the Halal certification industry is also open for debate and there are few verifiable facts on the costs of Halal certification. Few food producers who are certified Halal will go on the record to disclose how much the certification costs, most claim that the cost is minimal and in alignment with other food certification costs such as Organic, Free Range or Australian Made certifications. The senate commission into food certification in 2015 found that Halal food certification contributes minimal or no cost increase to consumers. Other figures proffered By Kirralee Smith claim that tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on Halal certification every year. 3
Profit and Pay to Play.
There are tremendous profits to be made by companies that have their food stuffs certified Halal by an authorized agent. Estimates of the world wide Halal food market spiral upwards from 2.1 trillion dollars. The largest Halal market is Australia’s close neighbor Indonesia, with over 200 million Muslims. Entering the Indonesian market is lucrative, worth around 13 Billion according El-Mouelhy. Market insiders say that it is expensive to enter the Indonesian market and the process is fraught with corruption as revealed in this four corners report. The Halal certification Authority for Indonesia, Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI, has officials that have been known to ask for bribes to allow entry into the lucrative Indonesian market, these range from ‘normal’ business expenses such as first class flights and 5 star hotels when they come to inspect a potential supplier to profit split deals, to straight up cash bribes according to Ikebal Patel. 4
The crux of El-Mouelhy’s case is that no one can prove that Halal certification funds Islamic extremism and the accompanying acts of terrorism that such groups perpetuate. He is right, there has been no proof found of money given to certification agencies finding its way into the hands of extremist groups. 5 The senate inquiry into food discovered no links between halal certification and funds channelled to terrorists. As for Mr El-Mouelhy’s suit as to whether Kirralee Smith is a bigot and a racist will be decided in court.