The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) on Friday has criticised the “abusive anti-halal calls and mails” directed at its members by opponents of the certification scheme.
The AFGC supports the certification scheme and has said that ‘halal certification enables up to $13 billion in food exports each year.’
The Council also questioned claims that halal certification represents a “tax” on business, arguing the religious approval “creates more value than it costs,” in a submission to a Senate inquiry on a third-party food certification.
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South Australian senator Cory Bernardi who described the halal industry as a “racket” started an inquiry on Wednesday to “get to the bottom” of the halal industry.
Concerns stated through more than 700 submissions following the inquiry are halal certification is “forced on” retailers; funds militancy; and is “purely a scam of gigantic proportions.”
However, the AFGC has defended the industry claiming companies pay halal certification fees because "the net effect is beneficial."
“Put somewhat bluntly, manufacturers will only pay a dollar for a certification if they expect to get more than a dollar back in sales, whether directly or indirectly,” the AFGC said.
A survey of AFGC members found “no single type of certification stands out as being especially costly or hard to obtain,” according to the submission.
It noted that staff at some member companies had been subject to “abusive anti-halal calls and mail” by critics of the Islamic certification.
“Such behaviour should neither be encouraged nor condoned by this inquiry,” the AFGC said.
All certifiers, halal and otherwise, could provide more transparency of their processes, it noted, including of whether “the certification scheme is run not-for-profit or as a commercial venture.”
Anti-halal sentiment briefly became prominent last year and is frequently voiced by some far-right and Christian parties in Australian parliament.
A prominent anti-halal campaigner, Kirralie Smith who is known for her Islamophobic discourses, and the “Islam-critical” Q Society are being sued for defamation in New South Wales over their claims the Islamic certification industry is corrupt and funds “the push for Sharia [Islamic term for law] in Australia.”
Last year in December, an Iranian born Australian Man Haron Munis held hostages in a cafe and two people were killed after the siege, which further triggered “Islamophobia” in Australian society. Some far-right and Christian groups initiated “Islamophobic” campaigns and caused violent events. Upon the “no halal certificate campaign” started by Smith, a halal certificated grocery store owned by a Turkish shopkeeper Salih Akgun was attacked.
The Australian Crime Commission, which last year completed an investigation into money laundering in Australia, has said it is “not aware of any direct links” between the industry and violent militant groups, denying Smith’ claims.
The Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned his colleagues against “picking a fight that we never needed to have” over halal, because of the potential impact on Australian exporters.
“Unless it’s halal certified, we can’t sell it. That means the whole processing line becomes unviable,” said Joyce.
“If we didn’t have the halal market in beef, that could really affect thousands of meat workers in Australia.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously rejected calls by several members of his own party for an inquiry into halal certification.
During a visit to a halal-certified meat producer in Tasmania in March, the prime minister said he was “really pleased that a business like this is growing its exports all the time, particularly to the Middle East.”
“If we want to export to the Middle East, we have to have certain procedures in place and this is just part of exporting to the Middle East and if we want our exports to grow all the time, this is what we need to do and I think that’s what Australians want,” Abbott said at the time.