The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) on Friday bowed to mounting public pressure by publishing its Halaal Trust financial records on its website.
Anti-MJC sentiment has been building since late last year after the body was linked to the scandal over the Orion Cold Storage company, which allegedly labelled pork-derived products as halaal. Orion has denied the allegations.
The products fraudulently labelled by Orion were never cleard by the MJC. It was done in a totally clandestine manner
In spite of that, some Muslims have taken the opportunity to demand answers from the MJC about its Halaal Trust (MJCHT), which has been accused of raking in millions from the sale of halaal certificates to businesses that sell products for the Muslim consumer market.
But on Friday, as the council moved to silence its critics, MJC spokeswoman Nabeweya Malick said she hoped their financial disclosure "can also result in good".
The MJC statements show that the Trust earned R8 078 893 last year. Its expenses totalled R7 647 383, which meant it made a total profit of only R431 510.
"Public pressure has highlighted the fact that the MJC has not disclosed its finances. Now that it is published, it neutralises allegations that close to R1 billion had been made. It answers the questions of speculative voices," Malick said.
She also hit out at those accusing the MJC of not having its books in order, saying that all profits went to educational projects.
"The MJC also has a farm in Philippi where it helps to eradicate poverty. Emerging farmers are trained to cultivate vegetables and feed their families."
The MJC's apologetic public meetings this week have, meanwhile, not deterred a range of smaller Musli groups who wish to take advantage of an opportunity to undermine the religious authority.
"Muslims Concerned" is one of the newly-formed small lobby groups. Founder
Allie Mohamed, who lives in Pelican Park, organised a protest on the corner of Jan Smuts and Klipfontein roads in Athlone on Friday.
His poster used the MJC acronym to spell out "Money Justifies Certificate:.
"The MJC loves wealth and they are selling out Muslims. They sell halaal certificates without inspecting the premises of companies,: he charged.
"How can we follow the MJC if they are lying? They had a meeting but offered no answers. They should say they made a mistake and are sorry."
Mohamed was referring to Thursday night's MJC public meeting at Darul Islam mosque in Surrey Estate, attended by nearly 1 000 people.
The MJC said it had called the meeting to offer an "explanation about the Orion issue", and to explain the "halaal processes".
MJC president Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks apologised to the Muslim community for confusion from the saga.
But the attempt to restore the MJC's credibility did not impress "Muslims Concerned", which called for a new halaal authority.
"We need this urgently so that we can know what is really halaal."
Groups that have long been disgruntled by the MJC have also re-surfaced, with calls for the scrapping of the MJC or its trust coming this week from, among others, People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad).
Pagad spokesman Osman Sahib said they had been in contact with local Muslim businesses and consumers to boycott any products bearing MJC logos. The group distributed a statement outside the MJC meeting on Thursday night, but did not disturb the gathering.
Its statement declared that "capitalist exploitation of Muslims must stop because the corporate clergy class have lost our trust and proved their incompetence". The statement was co-signed by the newly-formed groups Friends of the Hujaaj, Muslim Consumer Council, Hajj Watch and the National Consumer Forum.
"All certification of halaal must be done by only one national regulator that is properly legislatedâ€¦ all these religious mafias and monopolies must stop," the statement said, adding
"Islam is not a trademark" and "Muslim markets cannot be sold as a franchise".
But Malick shrugged off the opposition. She said that opposing groups had been around since the MJC was launched in 1945.
"They will take any opportunity or weakness that they think the MJC has to attack the organisation. Our advice to them is to contribute to build the community," she said, warning that it was "tragic when Muslims break down structures built over years.
"The best thing would be to get involved with the MJC instead of criticising it," Malick added.
The MJC reiterated this week that it had stopped dealing with Orion after the allegations surfaced that the company had labelled pork as halaal. In a statement this week, Orion claimed it had been sabotaged by former associates.
Orion boss Patrick Gaertner said in the statement that a "former business associate" and "his brother-in-law" wanted to frame him for R1.2m. He made reference to "acts of sabotage" committed on its business premises, but said further business dealings "with the two saboteurs" had been "totally severed".
Source: Yazeed Kamaldien, "MJC publishes Trusts records" IOL Business Report January 28, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today