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South Africa: No doubt over Halal certification: MJCHT

Voice of the Cape

All products certified by the Muslim Judicial Council Halal Trust (MJCHT) are halal. This was the categorical statement by the ulema body at a media briefing held at the MJC headquarters on Wednesday. It comes after the Department of Islamic affairs in Malaysia (JAKIM) delisted the halal certifier, after they failed an external audit in November last year. The halal body faces a public backlash, as questions arise over the effectiveness of its halal certifying procedures.

MJC leadership and Halal Trust Director addressing the media.

MJC leadership and Halal Trust Director addressing the media.

Addressing journalists at the briefing, Shaykh Isgaak Taliep said nothing in JAKIM report dated 15 February 2016 states or declares that any MJC certified product as har?m.

The Trust says it will petition the halal authority to reconsider its decision for delisting them.  The MJCHT has now lodged a dispute with JAKIM for a report it believes lacked “substance and content”. MJC’s Mufti Maulana Tauha Karaan will soon visit Malaysia to meet with JAKIM officials.

“The MJCHT is further aggrieved that JAKIM proceeded to delist MJCHT on the basis of formal requirements, not substantive requirements, without affording the MJCHT the right of response, or opportunity to adjust procedural requirements to conform to JAKIM standards prior to the delisting. It should also be borne in mind that during the course of three previous audits none of these issues were formally communicated to the MJCHT,” Taliep said in a statement read to the media.

JAKIM is one of the international government Bodies for hal?l certification. The MJCHT said it its trives to comply with the criteria of these international bodies and this would enable local companies and businesses to do business internationally.

No right to reply 

Despite the fact that the MJCHT has received JAKIM’s Auditor’s Report on the 15th February 2016 via email and the official Auditor’s Report (via registered mail) on 4th March 2016, the MJCHT made several attempts to JAKIM to get clarity on the interpretation of audit report. According to the ulema body, JAKIM “has not afforded the MJCHT right of response or to adjust procedural requirements” to conform to JAKIM’s standards prior to the delisting the MJCHT.

In response to the assessment on the lack of expertise within the Halal Trust, the organisation said training is provided to slaughterers.

“Substantive training takes place in various ways, including workshops, symposia, except that formal conferral of certification has not occurred. In addition, it must be noted that all the MJCHT inspectors are qualified religious leaders except for three inspectors who are non-‘ulam??. However, these three persons are well trained in the field of ?al?l and they have vast experience.”

Whilst JAKIM states that the MJCHT did not conduct the specific audit with “documentation” and “inspection tools”, the MJCHT said it does have such Audit documentation and inspection tools. However, JAKIM has a specific approach to auditing and the MJCHT has adjusted its system with immediate effect in order to satisfy all JAKIM’s requirements.

Difference of opinion

The MJC Halal Trust says it questions JAKIMs requirement for the severing of four veins during slaughtering. This finding was made after JAKIM officials visited County Fair in Durbanville last year and found slaughtering processes were non-compliant.

The Halal Trust said whilst this may be required by JAKIM, none of the four legal schools of jurisprudence (madh?hib) state this as an absolute requirement.

“Given that this is an ideal requirement, the reality is that the legal schools of jurisprudence require that at least two veins be severed (i.e. by the Shafiítes), others state that at least three veins be severed (i.e. by the ?anafites). Operationally, in this regard, the MJCHT always strives to adhere to the ?anafite position to accommodate this very important religious criterion.”

The requirement for a “checker” in the slaughter line, as per the JAKIM definition, and the duties ascribed to the “checker” is a concept that is not implemented at abattoirs by any South African halal certifying body, some of whom are also registered with JAKIM.

However, the same quality assurance of removing and recording of ‘non-conformity birds and red birds’ is abundantly secured through the mandatory role that the health inspector must fulfil under RSA health regulations, the Trust explained. However, the MJCHT is more than willing to strive towards exploring this possibility and undertakes to engage its fellow national halal certifying bodies (NHCB) in this regard.

Taliep explained that all non-conformity birds are recorded as “a statutory regulation at all chicken slaughterhouses”. JAKIM’s requirement is that the ?al?l Certifying Body (HCB) must have and keep an independent record thereof. The MJCHT is in the process of talking with the chicken slaughterhouses to extend this statutory regulation of recording “non-conformity birds” in line with JAKIM’s requirement.

“The MJCHT will always strive to improve its operations, policies and systems as it develops relationships with other ?al?l certifying authorities to meet the requirements of their ?al?l norms and standards in the interest of Muslim consumers and promoting international trade.”

The MJCHT said while it values the audit done by JAKIM, its automatic delisting, without giving a “right of response” and a fair chance to implement corrective measures is unreasonable. The Halal Trust described the report as “procedurally unacceptable”. It will petition JAKIM to reverse their decision of delisting the MJCHT. VOC

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