MJC hits back at halaal delisting

NABEELAH MOHEDEEN

The Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT) has been delisted as a halaal certifying body by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), the highest certifying body in Malaysia. This, after the MJC failed an external audit for the first time in 19 years.

This means they have been removed from JAKIM’s list of halaal certifiers and could impact local companies’ ability to export some meat, including ostrich – referred to as red bird. But, the MJC says, it does not mean that they are not halaal, and it does not affect the export of meat and chicken.

Last November, JAKIM’s audit of the MJCHT stated that the halaal authority was not compliant with international standards. JAKIM identified three areas of concern: insufficient expertise, weakness with the halaal certification system and problems with halaal slaughter houses.

On Wednesday March 30, the MJCHT met at its offices in Lansdowne, to discuss its response to the delisting.

Director of the MJCHT, Sheikh Achmat Sedick, said the trust had lodged a dispute with JAKIM over its reasons for the delisting.

“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,” said Sheikh Sedick.

Responding to the concerns raised in the JAKIM audit, the MJCHT said it provided substantive training for its butchers and MJCHT inspectors were qualified religious leaders, except for three who, nevertheless, were well trained and had a lot of experience.

The trust noted that the JAKIM had a specific approach to auditing and it had adjusted its system with immediate effect to satisfy the JAKIM’s requirements.

The MJCHT said it questioned the JAKIM’s requirement for the cutting of four veins at the time of slaughter.

“While this may be required by JAKIM, none of the four legal schools of jurisprudence (madhahib) 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 (that is the Shafiítes). Others (the Hanafites) state that at least three veins be severed. Operationally, in this regard, the MJCHT always strives to adhere to the Hanafite position to accommodate this very important religious criterion,” said Sheikh Sedick.

The MJCHT also questioned the JAKIM’s requirement for a “checker” in the slaughter line as it it claimed this was not standard practice for any of the country’s halaal-certified abattoirs.

Hanover Park community worker Gadija Richards, also known as Aunty Gigi, said all organisations had their faults and she still supported the MJC.

”I will continue to buy products certified by any halaal certyfing body. Everyone has their faults.

Where must I buy my meat. In Malaysia?” asked Ms Richards.

But Rondebosch East resident Nazly Solomon said she no longer trusted the MJC and now bought meat from a Schaapkraal farm instead of retail outlets.

“I’ve been in doubt for more than three months now, and when you are in doubt, you cannot just purchase the meat.

“I’ve spoken to my children, and we now buy meat and chicken from young entrepreneurial farmers in Schaapkraal who slaughter their own animals,” said Ms Solomon.

She said the MJC should open itself to public scrutiny to restore trust in the council. “We have no trust in the MJC. The distrust in the MJC is escalating rapidly among the people.”

Excellent Meat Market’s general manager, Khalil Mukaddam, said the business had full trust in the MJC and would continue to support it.

“The MJC have been in business for 70 years, they know what they’re doing. We trust them one 100 percent and will continue to support them,” Mr Mukaddam said.

Sheikh Sedick said the community should not doubt the body’s halaal standards and that the MJCHT guaranteed halaal slaughtering according to sharia ( Islamic law).