The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) yesterday defended its halaal clearance procedures following calls within the local Muslim community for the council to be scrapped.
The MJC (headquarters pictured) certifies products as halaal (fit for consumption), but it recently lost face in the community after Orion Cold Storage, where the MJC halal Trust (MJCHT) certified some meat as halaal, admitted to labelling pork - forbidden for Muslims - as halaal.
Emotions in the Muslim community flared up when the pork scandal resurfaced this week when a television programme slammed the MJC for ducking questions on the issue.
MJC acting president Achmat Sedick said yesterday, "We have not certified anything which is not halaal. On the basis of that, why must we defend the right to exist? I don't understand that.
"Orion deceitfully relabelled the (pork) products as halaal. The criminality lies with Orion and not the MJC."
Sedick said the MJC cleared 18 consignments of meat Orion had imported, but was not responsible for checking all of Orion's imports.
In a statement, the Muslim Judicial Council (SA) said it "reassures the community that the despicable crime committed at the Orion Cold Storage has not in any way affected the sealed Halaal chicken containers cleared by the MJCHT. The only involvement of the MJCHT with the Orion Cold Storage is on a Consignment Basis. Therefore, the unfounded accusations and insinuations expressed that sought to implicate and discredit the integrity of the MJCHT is malicious, deceitful and opportunistic."
"Since imported unregulated Halaal foods started flowing into South Africa, the MJCHT pioneered Halaal Regulation for imported Halaal meat and poultry in order to ensure that all imported foods that are approved as halal are indeed halal. We have thus engaged with accredited International Halal Authorities and established formal relations with these International Authorities. In conclusion we reassure our beloved community that all imported meat and chicken cleared by the MJCHT, are indeed Halaal."
Last year a video surfaced of an employee at the meat distribution company relabelling uncertified products and pork as halaal. Orion management denied the allegations, claiming it had been set up.
In November the supplier was taken to court over allegations that it had deliberately re-labelled imported pork products as halaal.
The Red Meat Industry Forum of South Africa, the South African Meat Industry Company and South African National Halaal Authority (SANHA) went to court to interdict Orion Cold Storage.
Sedick said the MJC was "evaluating our systems: around halaal meat imports.
"We have not changed anything about our procedures and certification. We are looking at the process of clearing all imports and exports to make sure that this does not recur. If there are things that we could tighten up then we will," Sedick said.
However, the MJC leadership have come under criticism from the Muslim community after appearing to evade e.tv's Debora Patta and her crew on the investigative news show "3rd Degree".
MJC president Igsaan Hendricks in turn has accused Patta of being unethical and insulting in the way she conducted her interview.
"e.tv and 3rd Degree had a good party that left the MJC as the guilty party in the face of the South African community. We were all surprised when she and her crew virtually stormed the building of the MJC and kept it under siege for four hours," he said.
Hendricks said there was never "much" communication between the MJC and Patta.
Patta, however, said she and her producers had e-mailed, SMSed and rung for more than two weeks before deciding to go to the MJC's offices after not receiving any feedback.
Patta told the Cape Argus newspaper that the MJC had still not answered her questions. As a public organisation, it must be accountable to the Muslim community.
Meanwhile, National Consumer Forum provincial co-ordinator, Imraahn Mukaddam, who had led a campaign against the MJC's halaal unit, accused the MJC of acting like a "corporate monopoly".
"Islam is not a trademark. Muslim markets cannot be sold as a franchise. The capitalist exploitation of the Muslim community must stop because the corporate clergy class have lost our trust and proved their incompetence. We demand change now," he said yesterday.
Mukaddam also questioned why the MJC had certified halaal products for Orion, but failed to monitor the company's operations.
Sedick replied that the MJC worked with "companies like Pick 'n Pay and Woolworths who sell halaal and non-halaal products". He explained that it was called to only clear items regarded halaal.
Ganief Hendricks, leader of the Al Jama-ah, said: "What has aggravated many Muslims is that Orion employees have joked that they have fed Muslims with pork for many years. I am very concerned Muslims will take the law into their own hands."
He had been in contact with six top meat wholesalers from whom 80 percent of Muslim butchers bought their stock, Hendricks said.
"It is clear that Muslims across South Africa have been fed with pork and this is a blot against every halaal certifying authority and every butcher in the country," he said.
He had met City of Cape Town officials "to ensure that the city plays its full role in ensuring Muslims are not duped into eating pork".
"A report is being prepared for action by the city," he said.
Yazeed Kamaldien, "Calls to scrap Muslim Judicial Council mount" Cape Times January 20, 2012
"MJC denies 'ducking and diving' " IOL News January 19, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today