Terror in the Tucker Box?

Are groceries in Australian trolleys funding a push for Sharia law, supporting jihad groups or even backing terrorist activity?

Consumers are totally justified in calling for more information on halal certification because we need to know where the money’s going.

But the politically correct commentariat have gone into full outrage mode over their concerns, sneering at those worried about halal certification as unintelligent and racist.

The media point to a bumper sticker displayed by some anti-halal activists –  “Halal food funds terrorism” – as proof in itself that the anti-halal movement are extremists and not worthy of being taken seriously. But, seriously, who knows where the money from halal certification is going?

We do know the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (or AFIC, now renamed Muslims Australia), one of at least 21 agencies in Australia that certify halal products, funds various education programs, builds mosques, provide Imams and pay the salaries of those Imams.

This is where the complaints come in. Most people who complain about halal certification do so because they see it as a “religious tax”. They have a point.

To be frank, I find it outrageous that some of my grocery spending could go to propagating a religion. Worse still, I don’t know whether my grocery spend is going to fund extremist versions of that religion or extremist religious activities that I would rather not see in Australia.

Just imagine the howls of outrage from the Left if a Pentecostal movement like Hillsong decreed that only food blessed by their pastors could be consumed by parishioners and then set up a certification operation that food manufacturers could sign up to (for a fee of course) so that their foodstuffs could be stamped “pastor-blessed”! The cost of any such certification is paid for by the consumer, whether or not they share that particular religious conviction.

And it seems with the vast range of products that are now halal approved, including Vegemite, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Cadbury’s Freddo Frog, it’s almost impossible to escape it.

Dr Taj Hargey, who is the head of the Muslim Educational Centre at Oxford, describes such a lack of labelling as deceptive.

“It turns out that the meat in many supermarkets is also halal – though there is no recognisable label to indicate this fact to consumers,” Dr Hargey states and then goes on to say that “this is covert religious extremism and creeping Islamic fundamentalism making its way into Britain by the back door.”

If the labelling was always present and clear, then, in a liberal democracy, consumers could choose to buy another product that wasn’t halal certified, or complain to the producer about the certification.

This is exactly what many consumers are now doing and the commentariat are condemning; they are exercising their rights as consumers.

But, the Left howl, the only consumer sentiment being exercised is based on misinformation. They’d point to those “terrorist” bumper stickers I mentioned earlier as proof of that.

But that concern has some justifiable basis. In the USA, the Islamic Society of North America, an organisation involved in halal certification, was named by the Justice Department, in 2007 and 2008, as a co-conspirator for two federal trials dealing with the financing of millions to terrorist group, Hamas.

It’s well known that halal certifiers contribute to Islamic charity groups. Herein lies another problem. The Australian Institute of Criminology reported that in the US from 2001 to 2008, there were 26 cases of charges against not-for-profit charities providing financial or material support to terrorist organisations. Direct links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were found. The same thing has occurred in Canada and France.

It’s entirely feasible to consider that the same thing might be happening here because we simply don’t know where the money is going.

Apparently in 2012-13 even the vice president of AFIC had difficulty getting his hands on financial reports for the group and was denied the opportunity to inspect finances.

There are also reports of Australian halal certification companies paying bribes to the Indonesian Council of Ulamas (MUI) to obtain halal licences. It’s reported that the president of the Sydney-based Halal Certification Authority stated: “It’s common knowledge in Australia that in order to get an authorisation you have to bribe MUI officials.” Where do these bribes end up?

While it’s not terrorism, there is no doubt that halal certification is funding organisations with extremist views and activities in Australia.  AFIC, which is responsible for halal-certifying Vegemite, have publicly advocated for Sharia to play a role in family law determinations. It’s lovely to know a jar of the salty black stuff is sponsoring the advocacy of robbing women of all of their marital property rights.

It’s lovely to know a jar of the salty black stuff is sponsoring the advocacy of robbing women of all of their marital property rights.

Australian businesses are being pressured to sign up for certification, and we are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars here – $27,000 a month for an abattoir, $40,000 a year for a chicken processor, $5000 a year for a small suburban kebab shop.

And yet there seems to be little transparency in the halal certification business. The profits derived from certification could be going anywhere.

Surely consumers, who are increasingly being forced into buying halal-certified foods as more and more food manufacturers jump on the halal bandwagon, are entitled to know where the money goes. Surely consumers are also entitled to know which groceries in their shopping trolley have passed on a religious tax.

George Christensen is the Federal Member for Dawson and the chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee for Social Policy and Legal Affairs.