For some time I have heard assertions that fees paid for halal certification on food are being used to fund terrorism. The ABC recently ran a fact check that exposed this as untrue.
Muslim diets require that certain foods be prepared in certain ways. Halal certification identifies food products that meet these requirements. This benefits Muslims by helping them easily identify foods they can consume and benefits farmers and other food producers by providing markets for their produce. One-fifth of the world’s food market is Muslim, so that represents a very large customer base.
Certification is provided by a number of private businesses that are recognised by Muslim communities. These businesses confirm a product is prepared in accord with halal guidelines, conduct regular inspections to ensure halal standards are being maintained, and charge a fee for this service. In other words they do what every business does – they provide a product or service that they charge for.
Like every privately owned business, what the owners do with their profit, as long as it is legal, is up to them. If they want to support the spread of Islam, fund Islamic schools, buy homes, pay for holidays, that’s their free choice to make.
There is simply no evidence that certification businesses are channelling funds to terrorists. This is a serious crime for which specialist audit and law enforcement agencies exist and these agencies, namely the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (the government body that monitors money laundering and terrorism) and the Australian Crime Commission, have publicly stated there is no systemic problem with halal certification businesses. Those who suggest otherwise are peddling falsehoods.
So it seems to boil down to this: the anti-halal certification campaign is saying “We don’t like Muslims. We don’t think they should be free to practise their religion. We don’t think they should have the right to use income they have earned to promote their religion. We are prepared to peddle lies to make people afraid of Muslims and to smear Muslims.”
I am a card carrying Christian, and I believe Muslims should be as free to practise and promote their religion as I am. It is not well known, but the first call made in the English language for religious freedom for Muslims came over 400 years ago from the founder of the Baptist church. Tomas Helwys argued that every person is responsible for his/her own faith and that no one should interfere with this, whether bishop or king, and whether or not I believe their religious convictions are right or wrong. I am proud to continue this tradition. If halal certification helps Muslims practise their faith it is something to be welcomed.