Saturday, June 29, 2013

McDonald's To Stop Serving Halal Food At 2 Michigan Restaurants

The only two McDonald's restaurants in the United States that were serving food prepared according to Islamic law have stopped several weeks after a $700,000 settlement over a lawsuit that alleged the items weren't consistently halal.
The fast-food giant said in a statement Monday that the locations in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, which has a large Muslim population, are no longer offering a halal McChicken sandwich or Chicken McNuggets in order "to focus on our national core menu."
The corporation added it takes into account "local and dietary preferences," and supports its franchisees in Dearborn. Neither the statement nor a spokeswoman said whether McDonald's decision was related to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, brought by customer Ahmed Ahmed in 2011, technically covered anyone who bought the halal-advertised products between September 2005 and January from the restaurant on Ford Road and another one in Dearborn with a different owner. The second location wasn't a defendant or a focus of the investigation.
A letter sent to McDonald's and restaurant franchisee Finley's Management, by attorney Kassem Dakhlallah's firm Jaafar and Mahdi Law Group, said Ahmed had "confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory" that the restaurant had sold non-halal food "on many occasions."
In the settlement notice, Finley's Management said it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labeled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas." The company added it trains its employees on preparing halal food and "requires strict adherence to the process."
McDonald's attorney Thomas McNeill said during a hearing earlier this year that the investigations and negotiations proved that if a problem arose, "it was isolated and rare."
The settlement is being shared by a customer named Ahmed Ahmed, a Muslim-run Detroit health clinic, Dearborn's Arab American National Museum and lawyers.
Dakhlallah said Monday that "there is no shortage of halal options for consumers" in Dearborn, home to one of the largest mosques in North America. Overall, the Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims.
"If the result of the class-action lawsuit against McDonald's and the Ford Road franchise was that companies who were falsely advertising halal products stopped pretending to be halal compliant, that's a good thing for consumers," he said. "I doubt that truly halal compliant businesses would stop offering halal products."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Halal Food Fraud Worries Muslim-American Community

When McDonald’s announced it would discontinue the sale of halal chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches at two restaurants earlier this week, it brought to light a thorny issue riling the Muslim-American community: inconsistent halal standards and fraudulent advertising and marketing of Islamically permitted products.
The United States is now home to thousands of halal-compliant food industry businesses, offering Muslim Americans a choice of offerings and convenience that earlier generations could only have imagined.
But this booming halal market is often accompanied by a lack of consensus about what constitutes halal — and that has caused confusion and controversy among Muslim Americans. In addition, several well-publicized incidents of fraud have left halal consumers vulnerable to unscrupulous merchants and suspicious about the sources of the products they are buying.
These problems surfaced when McDonald’s announced it would discontinue halal nuggets and sandwiches at two restaurants in Dearborn, Mich. The decision follows a 2011 lawsuit alleging McDonald’s falsely advertised non-halal chicken as halal. In January, McDonald’s paid $700,000 to settle the suit, but denied any wrongdoing.
It is not the first such settlement. In 2011, the Orange County, Calif., district attorney obtained a $527,000 settlement against the Super King Market in Anaheim, alleging the store falsely advertised generic and mixed meat as halal. The store denied wrongdoing.
“There is a lot of cheating,” said Syed Rasheeduddin Ahmed, founder of the Muslim Consumer Group, a halal certification and educational group in Huntley, Ill. “I am glad McDonald’s stopped the so-called halal chicken because they are not real halal.”
In part, the problem stems from the explosion of products racing to meet growing market demands.
The number of U.S. grocers with halal products has mushroomed from 10 in 1970 to more than 2,300 in 2012, while the number of restaurants serving halal food now exceeds 6,900, according to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, a halal certification and education group in Park Ridge, Ill.
U.S. consumers spent $11 billion on halal products in 2011, the nutrition council said.
“It’s a big market share,” said Timothy Abu Mounir Hyatt, managing director of Islamic Services of America, a halal certification group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We have a lot of customers who understand the importance of complying.”
While halal-observant Muslims welcome the plethora of choices, many are also wary that some merchants may try and take advantage of their religiosity to pass off products that aren’t halal.
“So long as there are few legal protections, there are often unscrupulous merchants that get away with it,” said Shahed Amanullah, founder of, a website with listings and customer reviews of halal restaurants and grocers around the world, including several thousand in the United States.
Indeed, the website (the name refers to the term used for the Islamic ritual slaughter of an animal) includes many reviews in which diners call out restaurants they believe are falsely advertising halal.
Halal, which means “lawful” or “permitted” in Arabic, requires that meat such as beef, lamb, goat, and poultry be raised and killed humanely, and that a blessing be said at the time of slaughter. Non-halal foods include carnivorous animals and birds of prey, as well as pork and products derived from pork such as gelatin. Fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains are permitted.
But the halal industry is hampered by another problem, too: division among Muslims. In 2006, a group of scholars dealing in Islamic law, ruled that machine-slaughtered animals are halal so long as they are blessed and butchered properly. Yet many Muslims, including Ahmed of the Muslim Consumer Group, said that only meat that is hand cut is permitted. Others say that a restaurant cannot be considered halal if it also sells forbidden products like pork and alcohol.
There are several organizations in the United States that certify products as halal and send inspectors into slaughterhouses and manufacturing plants to verify that the work is done according to Islamic law. A few states, including California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia, have passed laws penalizing businesses for false advertising of halal products.
Some Muslims say certification and guidelines do little to protect halal consumers from false advertising. At the same time, halal certifiers lack the manpower to inspect every individual restaurant and grocer, and instead focus on slaughterhouses and food manufacturers.
Given the pitfalls, what’s a halal eater to do? The best defense against fraud, Amanullah said, is education. He encourages consumers to check for reviews, and to directly ask businesses owners about their halal offerings.
“In the absence of universally accepted and verified halal standards, halal consumers should feel free to ask for verification of sources of halal meat so they can make up their own mind,” said Amanullah. “Businesses committed to serving this market will be happy to oblige.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

McDonald’s says goodbye to halal

McDonald’s Corp. is dropping halal food, which are prepared according to Islamic guidelines, from its U.S. menu after a lawsuit in Michigan accused the fast-food chain of false advertising.
McDonald’s only two U.S. restaurants that offered halal food, both in Dearborn, Mich., have stopped serving Halal Chicken McNuggets and Halal McChicken sandwiches after a lawsuit was filed in 2011 alleging the items were not properly prepared under Islamic law and that some customers who ordered halal items were mistakenly given non-halal food.
“Those items have been discontinued as a result of our continued efforts to focus on our national core menu,” a spokesman for McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) told the Detroit Free Press.
McDonald’s, which denied any wrongdoing, reached a $700,000 settlement in April. Of that amount, $275,000 went to a Muslim health center in Detroit; $150,000 to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, $25,000 to Ahmed Ahmed, the man who filed the lawsuit against McDonald's, and the remainder went to attorney fees, reported the Detroit Free Press.
The restaurants stopped serving the halal items last month, after 12 years of including them on the menu, according to the newspaper.
Kassem Dakhlallah, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, told the Detroit Free Press he was disappointed that the company decided to stop selling halal food rather than try "to ensure that all products sold were halal as advertised."
McDonald’s still sells halal food in Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Japan Satisfies Halal Appetite

CAIRO – Meeting a high demand among Muslim residents and tourists, restaurants in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, are expanding to satisfy a growing appetite for halal foods.
“Halal foods are currently delivered only within the 23 wards of Tokyo, but we want to expand the delivery area,” a member of the Halal Deli’s staff told The Japan Times on Friday, June 21.
Halal Deli is one of new restaurants in Tokyo that opened recently to meet a growing demand for halal food from Muslim tourists from neighboring Indonesia and other Muslim countries.
The halal restaurants supply Malaysian, Indonesian and Turkish food.
Their most frequent customers are companies that have Muslim employees and visitors as well as tourists.
The Japanese government recently made tourism from Southeast Asia a priority and is preparing to relax visa requirements to lure more people from the region.
The remarkable change comes as new studies revealed that the number of Muslims worldwide is expected to exceed two billion in 2030.
“In our primary plan, we estimated about 200 orders monthly, but now we receive over 500 per month,” says the staff member at Halal Deli.
“We plan to get more contracts and we hope the service will eventually be expanded to other cities.”
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat. Alcohol is also totally forbidden for Muslims.
Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Before halal food expansions, Fauziah Fauzan, an Indonesian Muslim, had to worry about the food served in restaurants and if it was permissible according to Islamic faith.
To avoid predicament, she had to resort to fish or strictly vegetarian meals.
“I didn’t have to worry if what I was eating was allowed or not,” said Fauzan, 42, a member of a group of about 30 education officials from Indonesia who came to Japan to visit schools.
“It would be great if halal foods were available in other areas.”
The Japanese government efforts to ease access to halal food guaranteed a growing share of Muslim tourism.
“There are many Muslims who would like to visit Japan, but the concern about the food is the main reason why they have second thoughts,” said Mina Hattori, the leader of Fauzan team and an associate professor at the School of Education and Human Development of Nagoya University.
“I think that if halal became more available, the number of Muslims visiting Japan would increase.”
Islam began in Japan in 1920s through the immigration of a few hundreds of Turkish Muslims from Russia following the Russian revolution.
In 1930, Muslims number reached about 1000 of different origins.
Another wave of migrants who boosted the Muslim population reached its peak in 1980s, along with migrant workers from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Japan today is home for a thriving Muslim community of about 120,000 Muslim, among nearly 127 million in the world's tenth most populated country.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Halal food on verge of boom with rise in Muslim visitors

Halal food, the only type Muslims are permitted to eat under Islamic law, is in hot demand, say managers at Halal Deli, which delivers boxed lunches to devout Muslims in Tokyo.
“Halal foods are currently delivered only within the 23 wards of Tokyo, but we want to expand the delivery area,” a member of the deli’s staff said.
The shop, based in Koto Ward, opened to meet growing demand for halal food from tourists from Indonesia and other Islamic countries.
A group of about 30 education officials from Indonesia in Japan to visit schools were licking their lips during a recent lunch break as they tried some curry from Halal Deli in a room at the nearby National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
“It’s delicious,” one said.
“I want some more,” said another.
Halal Deli signed contracts with three restaurants in April to supply Malaysian, Indonesian and Turkish food. They also decided to expand by launching phone and Internet-based delivery services.
Their most frequent customers are companies that have Muslim employees and visitors, and tourists.
On the menu you can find about a dozen “bento” (boxed lunches) containing chicken, rice and Japanese foods.
The concept of halal does not only prohibit pork and alcohol as most people think. It can also ban consumption of beef, lamb or chicken if the meats are not processed according to Islamic custom.
When this happens, they become “haram” or forbidden — the opposite of halal.
Some seasonings or condiments, like “mirin,” a sweet cooking sake used in Japan, can also be designated haram.
“I didn’t have to worry if what I was eating was allowed or not,” said Fauziah Fauzan, 42, another of the visiting Indonesian officials.
“It would be great if halal foods were available in other areas.”
After visiting Osaka and Nagoya, Tokyo was the first place they found restaurants or dining services that offered halal food, said Fauziah, who by then was resorting to fish or strictly vegetarian meals.
The leader of the team, Mina Hattori, an associate professor at the School of Education and Human Development of Nagoya University, said the last time they had a group of visitors from Indonesia, she had to prepare about 50 halal lunches with only the help of Indonesian students at the university.
“There are many Muslims who would like to visit Japan, but the concern about the food is the main reason why they have second thoughts,” said Hattori, who has conducted research on Islamic education. “I think that if halal became more available, the number of Muslims visiting Japan would increase.”
The Japanese government recently made tourism from Southeast Asia a priority and is preparing to relax visa requirements to lure more people from the region.
“In our primary plan, we estimated about 200 orders monthly, but now we receive over 500 per month,” says the staff member at Halal Deli. “We plan to get more contracts and we hope the service will eventually be expanded to other cities.”

Vets in animal welfare call over halal meat

VETS have called for stricter labelling of halal and kosher meat and immediate post-slaughter stunning of animals being prepared for the religious markets in a bid to improve welfare conditions.
Mr Jones said the BVA wanted to see slaughterhouse conditions improved, particularly in relation to the production of halal and kosher meat, by introducing immediate post-cut stunning.
He said: "We are grateful to the Scottish Government for consulting over these sensitive issues and we look forward to working with you to implement a solution that offers the highest levels of animal welfare, while respecting the views of certain religious communities."
For meat to be halal – or "permissable" – under Islamic law, the animals must be slaughtered with a sharp knife, which is used to cut their throat, windpipe and blood vessels in the neck, causing the animal's death without cutting the spinal cord. The blood from the veins from must be drained completely since blood is a carrier of bacteria and therefore considered unclean.
However, while it is standard slaughterhouse practice in the UK to administer an electric shock to daze the animal before it is killed, the practice is generally resisted as not being halal or kosher – partly from a fear the animal may be accidentally killed by a stungun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Uniting Islamic finance and halal at conferences

Conferences provide an insight on the road ahead for industries, products, innovations, and services. The speakers are assumed to know more than most on the other side of the podium.
One of the interesting developments in the Islamic finance conferencing arena has been the introduction of topical issues from the 2.1 trillion halal industry. Is it because there is no 'new new' in Islamic finance or the realization that Islamic finance needs to build bridges to new areas linked to the real economy or both?
Halal, depositors and alternatives 
There is a realization and recognition that, at one level, halal is demand based, hence, one needs to eat, before one invests in, say, mutual fund or bank/sukuk finance a tower. Thus, halal, being a consumer non-cyclical, is actually less volatile (or more stable) than Islamic finance's traditional area of finance: real estate.
Furthermore, as there are more Muslim depositors than investors (debt culture), there are more participants in halal than in Islamic finance (food over finance). To wit, Islamic finance participants will be almost always be consumers of halal foods, but halal food consumers will not always be Islamic finance participants. The reasons may be due to lack of availability of Islamic finance, especially at retail levels in non-Muslim countries, excessive costs or lower returns, inferior customer service, lack of range of products, etc.
For Muslims, the alternative to halal foods is the acceptable kosher. For example, in the US, Muslims consume more kosher products than Jews, as there are more than 86 kosher products for every one halal product. Thus, halal and kosher are a good example of building bridges of inter-faith dialogue.
The alternative to Islamic finance is the conventional and ethical (which has elements of interest) or cash economy. Obviously, not many ideal choices, but many scholars have invoked 'law of necessity' for allowing Muslims to participate in interest based finance as an Islamic alternative is unable and would cause undue hardship. Furthermore, there are a number of Christian and Catholic funds available for investing, but Shariah scholars have not approved them for investment for Islamic investors.

Thus, the 'acid of purity or authenticity' may be articulated by following observation:

If there are pork traces of DNA found in halal food products and known by the consumer, the consumption of the product would be prohibited. Only caveat is when consumption of pork would save a person from starvation to death. In Islamic finance, the Shariah scholars have allowed 'minor' amount of interest and impermissible income (which must be purified by way of charitable donation) and acceptable amount of conventional debt (screening companies for compliance for investment purposes) as preconditions for participation. Thus, halal can be said to be Shariah based and today's Islamic finance as Shariah compliant.

ConferencesIslamic finance conferences are about awareness, education and networking, but they are commercial undertaking with profit motives. The injection of halal at such conferences is actually a paradigm shift, as Islamic finance has traditionally ignored its much larger brethren: halal. It should be noted that at halal conferences/events, like World Halal Forum, Islamic finance topics are commonplace and, even, Islamic banks sponsor such events.
The time has arrived to present the halal value proposition at Islamic finance events. Thus, I was requested to present on halal at major events like the Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum (KLIFF) 2012, World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) Asia 2013 in Singapore, and at the Brunei Islamic Investment Summit (BIIS) 2013.
Furthermore, after His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, made the historical announcement in early 2013, about Dubai's ambition for an Islamic economy, it has institutions, consultants, and conference organizers scuttling to put together a 'blue print' of the Islamic economy, including halal.

Halal conversation
The conversation on halal must continue to evolve from the academic, certification and research to the practical, immediate and impaction. Put differently, the monetisation of halal needs to entice the Islamic money, as the riba based money has financed halal. For example, one only needs to examine at the balance sheet of, say, publicly listed halal food companies in the SAMI Halal food index for Shariah compliance (financial ratios, especially on debt), and realize quite a few fail the screening process.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aussie’s Baby Royale halal food soon in Malaysian supermarts

Australia's premium branded halal baby food maker Baby Royale will soon put its products on the shelves of 350 supermarkets in Malaysia, reports The Australian.
It believes the rollout of its products in Malaysia's modern supermarkets such as Cold Storage, Giant and Tesco will boost its exports to the Asean region by A$2 million (about RM6 million) over the next 12 months, rising to A$20m a year over the next five years.
Baby Royale managing director Adam Moore said the company, based in the Victorian regional capital of Traralgon, saw the Asean region as being 50 per cent of its within five years, with bigger opportunities in the long term "The focus for food is moving away from being just China-centric.
"It is a lot easier for us to do business here (in Malaysia) than in China. That is the reality.
"There are a lot less barriers to entry and I think we should be taking more advantage of it."
Moore said the company had teamed up with powerhouse local market expansion services firm DKSH, which has developed a reputation for growing brands in the region. It is also listed on the Zurich Stock Exchange and operates through 27 Asean countries.
"They can bring some specialist abilities into what we are doing in terms of brand building and market building. For smaller exporters that is really important," Moore said, noting the deal had taken three years to conclude.
The announcement of the deal was made on the Victorian government's Super Trade Mission to Southeast Asia, which includes 85 food and beverage companies. The trade mission moves today to Indonesia before heading to Singapore.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Research and Markets: UAE Halal Cosmetics Market Opportunity Analysis Report 2013

UAE has emerged as an exceptionally attractive market for cosmetic companies to introduce their new products as it is one of the largest beauty markets in the world and is endorsed by affluent clientele. The demographic variety of consumers that are spread within the UAE translates into a diverse market that allows companies to offer variety of product across varied price spectrum. While the market for luxury products has a large clientele in the UAE, there is also a strong market for regular, value-for-money product lines. Although the cosmetics market is dominated by women's products, spending by men is also on the rise.
Cosmetics market in UAE is witnessing a new drift towards the increasing demand of Halal certified cosmetics products. The exponentially increasing preference for Halal cosmetics products has led to change in the business strategy of the local as well as international companies present in the market. Companies are now changing their product assortment in order to accommodate the growing demand for Halal cosmetics products due to transition in the customer preference for Halal products.
Halal certification and acceptance of Halal products had been widespread in the hospitality, food, packaging, banking and finance industries in the Middle East and specifically in the Saudi Arabia and UAE. In the food sector, Halal consciousness is especially high among consumers as well as the governments. However, the demand for Halal cosmetics and beauty products is not as strong. With increasing consumer awareness and a willingness to pay for quality products, the scenario is changing, thereby transforming the cosmetics and personal care industry into a potential sunrise segment for the region.
Consumers are now verifying the contents of the cosmetics that are most used by them for animal based ingredients that may not be Halal. However, there exist constraints on the supply side. There is a dearth of Halal-certified cosmetics brands in the UAE market. The existing players are small and this has led to a fragmented nature of the market. None of the multinational cosmetics companies present in the UAE offer Halal friendly products. This continues to remain a problem due to the absence of a local certification body.
UAE Halal Cosmetics Market Opportunity Analysis research report is an intriguing text that gives detailed facts and analysis on latest developments in the UAE Halal cosmetics Market. Report discusses various segments of the Halal cosmetics market and analyzes the factors responsible for the growth and the need to resolve challenges to maintain growth momentum in future.
Key Topics Covered:
1 UAE Cosmetics Market Overview
2 UAE Halal Cosmetics Market Opportunity Analysis
3 Halal Cosmetics Market Dynamics
3.1 Favorable Market Parameters
3.2 Market Opportunity Analysis
3.3 Challenges to Overcome
4 Halal Cosmetics Supply Chain Analysis
5 Halal Certification: A Key to Successful Marketing
6 Business Model
6.1 Online Retailing
6.2 Supermarket/Retail Outlets
6.3 Exclusive Outlet

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raid On Halal Slaughtering Company Raises Concerns Over Religious Freedom

A federal investigation by the USDA of the oldest halal meat slaughtering and product company in the United States raises grave concerns for Muslims about the infringement of first amendment rights.
The raid of Midamar Corporation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on October 16, was lead by US Department of Agriculture enforcement officers. 
In a joint federal operation, agents seized documents, books, records and computer files, freezing $454,000 of assets. 
Midamar has sought an injunction to access the funds, but was turned down by the US District Judge Linda Reade.
A family-owned business run by Bill Aoessey, Jr., and pioneering the halal meat product market in 1974, Midamar is the first halal company to seek USDA approval for its products. 
It conducts the slaughtering of livestock at their facility, creating various halal products that are distributed worldwide.
Currently, Midamar does 70 percent of its business internationally, selling products throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Their hot dogs are popular on ethnic grocery stores across the United States.
Sara Sayed, the spokeswoman for Midamar says, “While the USDA investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating, there has been no explanation as to why this is happening and no means of getting to a resolution.”
According to, court documents suggests the government is looking into allegations that Midamar packaged meat as being halal when it was not.   
“The USDA does not have oversight of religious observations like the ritual slaughter of meat, but can investigate mislabeling of products as kosher or halal,” says Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
“The concern here is that the government alleges we mislabeled products,” explains Sayed. “We perform the halal ritual and then make the products, so is the government saying that our process of halal is not acceptable?  Is the government now regulating the religious practice?”
The USDA regulates commercial sales of meat products in the United States, however, the Humane Slaughter Act passed in 1958 exempts Jewish and Muslim slaughtering practices by defining ritual slaughter.
Criminal investigations of mislabeled meat products are rare.
According to the USDA, only 10 such criminal actions were filed against people or corporations since 2011.
The most recent case with the mislabeling of halal meat products was in 2010 involving Super King Market in Anaheim, California. 
The Orange County District Attorney’s office found that the company was selling meat from various sources as being halal, when it was ordinary meat.
Super King Market agreed to pay $527,000 to settle the case.
The investigation of King Market began when the Orange County Health Department discovered meat was being delivered to the store without clear labeling, but once on display, it was “co-mingled with generic meats” and falsely labeled as being halal.
That investigation did not involve the USDA and was carried out under the California Halal legislation AB 1828  that was passed in 2002. 
California is the fifth state in the country to pass such legislation. New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois and Michigan have similar legislation.
Sayed believes the USDA’s actions against Midamar arose out of its import inspection obligations, which they voluntary submit to.
The only documented case of USDA prosecution of halal mislabeling involved the Washington Lamb Company of Springfield, Virginia in 1997.
According to the USDA, Washington Lamb was investigated after compliance officers discovered that in 1993 and 1994, the company had placed false halal stamps on meat and lamb products, used false halal certificates, and made false oral representations to its customers claiming that ordinary meat met halal requirements.
The raised prices cost consumers about $9,000.
According to Washington Lamb’s website, they sold halal meat purchased by outside vendors as well as ordinary meat, unlike Midamar which slaughters and markets its products for the halal meat industry. 
In fact, Washington Lamb currently lists Midamar as its source for specialty halal meat products.
When asked about why Sayed thinks this occurred, she responds that it would be useless to assume the reason for the investigation given the lack of information available.
“If the USDA was going after us for halal, which doesn’t fall into their mandate, the question is why would they go after a purely halal company that specializes in this product and not a mainstream company trying to dabble in halal?” Sayed says.
Attempts to contact the USDA for a response went unanswered.
According to The Gazette in Iowa, seizure of financial assets is often connected to investigations of tax evasion, money laundering or fraud. 
Bob Teig, a retired assistant U.S. attorney in Iowa’s Northern District, says, “It appears to involve more than meat inspection requirements and regulations.”
That perception has community leaders and civil rights advocates worried that this is selective and discriminatory investigation that infringes religious freedom. 
“Midamar can come out and conclusively show that their process is halal, get a consensus from Muslims on this process, case is closed.  But the fact is the government has zero business in defining what is halal and not, that is up to the community. We do that,” says Shakeel Syed, the executive director of Shura Council, which is an umbrella organization representing Islamic Centers and organizations in Southern California. 
There is an ongoing debate on what constitutes halal slaughtering as was recently exhibited in al-Safa foods labeling of food in 2011 when it changed from hand slaughtering to mechanical process.
Syed argues that the government doesn’t step in to dictate between Reform and Ultra Orthodox Jewish community by defining what kosher is. 
He expresses that Midamar might be a case of the “government running after Muslim charity’s at one time, except, now they are running after halal chickens.”
Under the counter terrorism developments that were heralded in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, one systematic change called the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) has had a far reaching affect on the American Muslim community giving weight to Syed’s concern of government investigations of Muslim charities and businesses.
JTTF is a cooperative effort to address the criminal and intelligence gathering short falls of law enforcement agencies at all levels of government after the 9/11 attacks. 
This cooperative model is managed by the FBI, which aims to utilize the JTTF to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks. Among the agencies that actively take part in the taskforce is the USDA.
An early example of this work first appeared in 2003, when Phyllis Fong, then Inspector General regulating the USDA, testified to the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture on the cooperation with the JTTF over food stamp trafficking cases involving the transfer of monies overseas.
Operation Green Quest was a national project to identify mechanisms used to transfer funds overseas to terrorist groups and USDA representatives were active with these investigations.
In this working group, the USDA would report to the FBI information on a person of interest from Pakistan, being an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) recipient, and actively engaging in the transferring of funds to Pakistan, without any clear criminal behavior criteria prompting the investigation.
“We regularly encounter officers from various agencies working on the JTTF’s to further FBI’s counterterrorism goals,” says Ameena Mirza Qazi, Staff Attorney for CAIR-LA. “Sometimes when they do not have enough for a terrorism-related prosecution, they pursue charges related to white-collar crimes against Muslims. This raises serious questions of whether these prosecutions are selective and discriminatory.”
In 2002, regulations put into place by the Church Commission hearing of FBI domestic investigations of Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., were eliminated. 
The Church Commission had concluded that the FBI, under COINTELPRO, had been spying on Americans based on politically motivated and flagrantly violating first amendment rights.
Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the ACLU indicate that the JTTF units are similarly investigating Americans given the removal of safeguards. 
Given the seriousness of the allegations against Midamar, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on US authorities to explain their investigation and Midamar has retained an attorney.

Halal meat demand grows across state's west

A Dubbo based company that processes sheep meat says there is a demand to cater for the growing Muslim population across the state's west.

Fletcher International was set up in 1973, and is now one of Australia's largest suppliers of halal sheep and lamb meat, exporting to countries across the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Marketer Graham Lyons says the halal industry is a growing market domestically and internationally.
He says the company is expanding it's halal meat distribution in Dubbo.

"We do that also, Dubbo's Muslim population has grown, we have a number of people working with us and also a lot of professionals move to Dubbo and there is a demand for halal slaughtered meat in Dubbo," he said.

Mr Lyons says the halal industry is worth over a billion dollars per year around the world.
He says it is opening up a large market for Australian businesses. 

"Over the past year ten years the halal market in Australia has grown, our understand is that more then 700,000 Muslims in the Australian community now and there has been large markets created in Melbourne and Sydney," he said.
"A lot of the Australian meat industry has based their sales and production on halal slaughter."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Drug firms Eye Halal Certification

MUSHROOMING INTEREST: 39 firms have applied for certification from Jakim so far

KUALA LUMPUR: PHARMACEUTICAL Companies have shown overwhelming interest in obtaining halal certification, introduced earlier this year, from the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).
Its director-general, Datuk Othman Mustapha, said so far, the department had received applications from 39 companies, of which four have already received the certification.
"Before the launch of MS2424:2012 certification, we used the MS1500:2009 standards where 71 companies that produce health supplements and 141 that produce traditional medicines were given the certification."
He said Jakim now had the expertise to be the main centre for the certification of pharmaceutical products.
"Our halal hub division is not only the centre for certification of eateries, slaughter houses and logistics.
"We now also have experts and specialists to certify pharmaceutical products.
"We have also been exploring new areas to improve our certification process," he said.
Jakim's halal hub division created history when it became the first accreditation body in the world to introduce certification for halal pharmaceutical products.
However, the MS2424:2012 standard only applies to over-the-counter medicines, health supplements and traditional medicines.
"Medicines prescribed by doctors are not given accreditation under this standard," Othman said.
Director-general of health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said they have been working closely with Jakim in developing a more comprehensive Islamic health management practice.
"We are working hand in hand with them to introduce health management that follows Islamic requirements among medical practitioners.
"We have also discussed the use of doubtful pharmaceutical products and use of products that have received halal certification."
He added that the details were being addressed stage by stage.
Malaysia Medical Association president Datuk Dr N. Tharmaseelan said that the demand for halal pharmaceutical products around the world was increasing rapidly.
"The demand for healthcare and halal-certified drugs and vaccines will multiply as economies in Muslim countries expand.
"Malaysia is a well-known halal hub, thus, it opens up a huge market for the local pharmaceutical industry to fulfil the demand."
He said, in Malaysia, almost all medicines and vaccines were halal-compliant and where it is not possible to use halal medicines, the patients would be informed about it.
"Patients, especially Muslims, need to be assured that what they have been prescribed is derived from halal sources.
"Anxiety about the drug content must be addressed in an empathetic manner as confidence speeds the recovery process for patients."
He added that Malaysia had the expertise to become completely halal-compliant in a couple of years, provided there were adequate funds for research.

Monday, June 3, 2013

DEARBORN: Two McDonald’s outlets stop serving halal chicken after lawsuit settlement

DEARBORN — In the wake of a lawsuit settlement, the only two McDonald’s restaurants in the country that served halal chicken have stopped serving halal McChicken sandwiches and Chicken McNuggets.

The outlets are at 13158 Ford Road and 14860 Michigan Ave. A sign on the door at the Michigan Avenue restaurant tells customers in English and Arabic that the halal chicken is no longer served there. The electronic sign at the Ford Road restaurant was advertising a “buy one, get one free” special on Filet-O-Fish sandwiches Friday morning.

“Halal” refers to meeting Islamic requirements for preparing food. God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.

On April 17, the final details of a $700,000 class action lawsuit against the Ford Road outlet’s franchise owner, Finley’s Management Co., was approved by Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald.

Ahmed Ahmed of Dearborn Heights bought a McChicken sandwich at that McDonald’s on Sept. 2, 2011. It was advertised as halal, but apparently was not because the restaurant ran out of halal chicken.

He filed the lawsuit Nov. 23, 2011.

Under the agreement, Ahmed was to receive $20,000, Jaafar & Mahdi Law Group of Dearborn was to receive about $286,941, Health Unit on Davison Avenue Inc. in Detroit was to receive $274,000, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn was to receive about $115,559 and JPMorgan & Chase Co. was to receive about $3,500 for overseeing an escrow account. The money was to be distributed within a month of the settlement.

Kassem Dakhlallah of Jaafar & Mahdi, lead attorney for Ahmed in this case, said Friday he hadn’t talked to Ahmed about it yet.

“It’s disappointing, if anything,” Dakhlallah said. “Our hope was that it wouldn’t be the message a corporation like McDonald’s would take out of this.”

He added that he figured dropping the halal sandwiches might be a byproduct of the lawsuit, and it isn’t what he wanted.