HALAAL FOOD SPARKS FURY

Con­sumers com­plain they are forced to buy halaal goods and are ‘ma­nip­u­lated’ into fund­ing Is­lam

CityPress - - Front Page - VICKY ABRA­HAM [email protected]­press.co.za

The Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cul­tural, Re­li­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties (CRL) Com­mis­sion has been flooded with let­ters from Chris­tian con­sumers com­plain­ing that most food and bev­er­ages in their su­per­mar­kets are cer­ti­fied halaal, with some say­ing they don’t want to eat or drink any­thing “sac­ri­ficed to idols”.

Com­plaints re­ceived by the CRL against su­per­mar­kets and Mus­lim halaal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties show some Chris­tians are fu­ri­ous about the preva­lence of halaal-cer­ti­fied food in gro­cery stores and restau­rants, claim­ing it vi­o­lates their right to free­dom of choice.

Doc­u­ments City Press ob­tained show that some Chris­tian con­sumers have laid com­plaints with the com­mis­sion against su­per­mar­kets, in­clud­ing Pick n Pay, Sho­prite, Checkers, Wool­worths and Food Lovers Mar­ket, food man­u­fac­tur­ers and restau­rants, as well as the SA Na­tional Halaal Au­thor­ity (Sanha), Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Halaal Trust (NIHT), Is­lamic Coun­cil of SA and the Mus­lim Ju­di­cial Coun­cil.

Chris­tian con­sumers com­plain they are forced to buy halaal goods and are “ma­nip­u­lated” into fund­ing Is­lam.

Some com­plainants charged that buy­ing ha­laal­cer­ti­fied foods in­di­rectly forces Chris­tians to ad­here to sharia law, pay for the per­se­cu­tion of other Chris­tians in Mus­lim coun­tries, fund the build­ing of mosques and even con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to ter­ror­ist groups, such as the Is­lamic State and Ha­mas.

The com­plaints are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the com­mis­sion’s lawyers.

But one halaal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body has hit back at the “Is­lam­o­pho­bic” claims that it funds ter­ror groups and Chris­tian per­se­cu­tion, slam­ming them as “un­true, a fab­ri­ca­tion” and say­ing they “should be treated with the con­tempt they de­serve”.

Stats SA fig­ures from 2016 show that South Africa is home to 892 685 Mus­lims, 43.4 mil­lion Chris­tians, 5.9 mil­lion peo­ple who claim to have no re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion or be­lief, 2.4 mil­lion who fol­low tra­di­tional African re­li­gion, 561 268 Hin­dus, 52 598 athe­ists, 49 470 Jews and 32 944 ag­nos­tics.

The halaal in­dus­try is es­ti­mated to be worth R45 bil­lion and it is es­ti­mated that up to 90% of all food prod­ucts in the coun­try are halaal cer­ti­fied.

A com­plainant from Kouga in the East­ern Cape charged in a let­ter to the com­mis­sion that hal a al cer­ti­fi­ca­tion bod­ies vi­o­late the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act “which pro­tects con­sumers against dis­crim­i­na­tory mar­ket­ing”.

“Cur­rently 2% to 3% of the South African pop­u­la­tion is Mus­lim, while the ma­jor­ity of South Africans as­so­ciate them­selves with the Chris­tian faith, yet con­sumers are forced to buy Is­lamic-la­belled prod­ucts ... We view this as an un­fair prac­tice based on re­li­gious be­liefs.”

An­other from Rivers­dale, Western Cape, wrote: “They don’t give us a choice. As a Chris­tian be­liever I’m forced to buy prod­ucts from a cul­ture group that makes up only 2.6% of our pop­u­la­tion. I there­fore have to fi­nance a sys­tem that I do not sup­port and I also do not know how the money is spent.”

A com­plainant from Laudium, Pre­to­ria, wrote: “My right to pur­chase gro­ceries ac­cord­ing to my own re­li­gious be­liefs has been vi­o­lated. The ma­jor­ity of food items avail­able on the shelves are halaal cer­ti­fied ... I am deeply of­fended by the fact that I, as a Chris­tian, don’t have a choice.

“I’ve been eat­ing Kel­logg’s Corn Flakes since I was a child, but now I’m forced to eat ha­laal­cer­ti­fied Kel­logg’s Corn Flakes, be­cause that is all that’s avail­able at my su­per­mar­ket.”

Com­plainants claim they are made to pay for cer­ti­fied food which forces them to “con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to the Is­lamic com­mu­nity”.

A com­plainant from Bruma, Jo­han­nes­burg, wrote that while the right of re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties to ob­serve their own di­etary laws was not in dis­pute, mea­sures taken for the prac­ti­cal con­ve­nience of those ad­her­ents must not be at the ex­pense of, or of­fen­sive to, those of other re­li­gions.

“Is­lam is overtly and ac­tively anti-Chris­tian. Whereas South Africa en­joys a high de­gree of tol­er­ance among var­i­ous re­li­gious groups and we value the cor­dial re­la­tions that ex­ist be­tween ad­her­ents of var­i­ous faiths, it is deeply of­fen­sive to the con­science of any per­son to be forced to sup­port a re­li­gion that is di­rectly and fun­da­men­tally op­posed to his own.”

Other pe­ti­tion­ers in­cluded state­ments in their com­plaints that halaal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion bod­ies have in­den­ti­fied as “Is­lam­o­pho­bic”, in­clud­ing that they were forced to eat food “sac­ri­ficed to idols”, fund the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians and Jews in Mus­lim coun­tries, sub­scribe to sharia law and even fund ter­ror­ism.

A Dur­banville, Cape Town, res­i­dent com­plained that he couldn’t find non-halaal take­aways in a lo­cal shop­ping cen­tre and that be­sides meat and chicken, “even sweets, frozen veg­eta­bles, milk, but­ter, bread, juice, ice cream, and pasta are halaal cer­ti­fied”.

But NIHT chair­per­son Hafez Moorad Boo­ley said the halaal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process sim­ply “over­sees the en­tire pro­gramme of pro­duc­tion and en­sures that no non-halaal prod­ucts are used, or that halaal prod­ucts are con­tam­i­nated with pork, in­sects, urine, al­co­hol, an­i­mal waste, blood, cer­tain ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms and harm­ful sup­ple­ments and colourants”.

“We must stress that ab­so­lutely no foods are ded­i­cated to any gods, as has been al­leged. That con­cept is alien to Is­lam and it is to­tally for­bid­den. A great mis­con­cep­tion is that halaal means a bunch of priests chant­ing and chang­ing nor­mal foods to halaal foods. That is un­true. The halaal process is merely to en­sure that for­bid­den in­gre­di­ents are not used in the pro­duc­tion of th­ese prod­ucts.”

Boo­ley said the cost of halaal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is min­i­mal and not car­ried by the con­sumer. The in­put costs of halaal and non-halaal foods is the same, he said, other­wise pro­duc­ers would not make halaal prod­ucts.

Boo­ley said al­le­ga­tions that they funded ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions was “to­tally un­founded”.

“It is un­true, a fab­ri­ca­tion and should be treated with the con­tempt it de­serves,” he said.

“The NIHT is a regis­tered non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion with the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try, the SA Meat In­dus­try Com­pany and Con­sumer Goods Coun­cil of SA, and our fi­nan­cials are au­dited an­nu­ally by rep­utable au­dit­ing firms.

“Our op­po­si­tion and to­tal re­jec­tion of rogue, so-called Is­lamic, or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as the Is­lamic State, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, is well doc­u­mented both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Boo­ley.

Sanha spokesper­son Ebi Lock­hat said: “Mus­lims do not be­lieve in the Holy Trin­ity. Our faith is monothe­is­tic and our be­lief is in one God, the Almighty who is re­ferred to as Al­lah. Our food is not ded­i­cated to any tri­une god or idols.”

CRL chair­per­son Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva con­firmed re­ceiv­ing nu­mer­ous com­plaints from Chris­tians about halaal prod­ucts in stores and said she would look into kosher or­gan­i­sa­tions as well.

To avoid eat­ing halaal-cer­ti­fied foods, she said, some Chris­tians said they bought im­ported goods and avoided su­per­mar­kets such as Pick n Pay, Checkers and Sho­prite, whose branded prod­ucts are cer­ti­fied halaal. They are also de­mand­ing bolder and larger halaal sym­bols on food prod­ucts so they can spot them bet­ter and clear warn­ing signs at restau­rants and fast food out­lets that serve halaal meat.

“South Africans should start ask­ing food man­u­fac­tures dif­fi­cult ques­tions, for in­stance, how much money they are pay­ing for the halaal and kosher em­blems on food prod­ucts,” she said.

“Peo­ple should know what it means to them to pro­mote other re­li­gions as far as their own be­liefs are con­cerned, be­cause they are in­di­rectly pro­mot­ing some­thing else.

“Are Jewish and Mus­lim or­gan­i­sa­tions try­ing to re­cruit more Chris­tians to be­come Mus­lims or Jewish and is it in the best in­ter­est of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent re­li­gious groups?”

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said even bot­tled wa­ter was cer­ti­fied halaal or kosher.

“If I pur­chase kosher- or halaal-cer­ti­fied prod­ucts, it means that I am sub­si­dis­ing an­other re­li­gion. I am pay­ing in­di­rectly for some­thing that is not my be­lief.

“We have raised this con­cern with the Mus­lim Ju­di­cial Coun­cil to de­ter­mine how much money it col­lects on halaal-cer­tifi­cated foods. We had con­ver­sa­tions with the Con­sumer Coun­cil and we need to fol­low up on th­ese is­sues,” she said.

Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion spokesper­son Trevor Hat­tingh said they were un­aware of the com­plaints and that there was no em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to prove that con­sumers were be­ing forced to buy halaal-cer­ti­fied food.

Sho­prite and Wool­worths re­ferred me­dia in­quiries to the Con­sumer Goods Coun­cil of SA, which said it was un­aware of the com­plaints. Food Lovers Mar­ket de­clined to com­ment.

A Pick n Pay spokesper­son said that halaal “cer­ti­fi­ca­tion costs are neg­li­gi­ble and there is no charge passed on to our cus­tomers. Cus­tomers who do not wish to buy food that has been cer­ti­fied for re­li­gious pur­poses can find al­ter­na­tives in our stores.”

“The ma­jor­ity of our non-Mus­lim cus­tomers are not of­fended in any way by halaal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“The only dif­fer­ence is that halaal meat re­ceives a bless­ing. The cost of this bless­ing is neg­li­gi­ble. Most cus­tomers have no ob­jec­tion to halaal or kosher cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sym­bols on the prod­ucts they buy.”

Kosher-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion head Rabbi Dovi Gold­stein said he runs a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion does not in­crease the price of food.

I’ve been eat­ing Kel­logg’s Corn Flakes since I was a child, but now I’m forced to eat halaal-cer­ti­fied Kel­logg’s Corn Flakes, be­cause that is all that’s avail­able at my su­per­mar­ket

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