Friday, February 28, 2014

Danish Muslims, Jews Fight Halal Ban

CAIRO — Rejecting ritual slaughter ban as a infringement to their religious rights, Danish Muslims and Jews have joined hands, vowing to fight the ban imposed on halal and kosher meat.
“Minority religious groups are afraid this ban will lead to other restrictions in the future,” Fatih Alev, president of the Danish Islamic Center in Copenhagen, told Religious News Service.
Earlier in February, Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen announced that animals would not be slaughtered before being pre-stunned.
“This decision is an improvement for animal welfare,” said Pernille Fraas Johnsen, agricultural campaign manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ Copenhagen branch.Accordingly, Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter will be illegal in Denmark.
“We don’t call it a ban on kosher (practices) but a ban on slaughter without stunning because for us, and I think for the government as well, it is a matter of animal welfare.”
Yet, the ban sparked angry reactions from Jewish and Muslim minorities, saying the law threatens their religious freedom.
Bent Lexner, chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, has also asserted that ritual slaughter was a key belief for Jews.
“It is a basic element of the Jewish religion and if they take this away, they take away a basic right,” he said.
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.
Muslim scholars agree that Shari`ah provides a divine law of mercy that should be applied on all Allah’s creations, including animals.
Islam also provides details about avoiding any unnecessary pain.
Religious Freedom
The latest moves were blasted by Jewish and Muslim groups as effectively disenfranchising their religious traditions.
“With this, it is no longer permitted to slaughter without pre-stunning a cow, and before, it was legal to do that — so it is a ban,” said Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Community Center in Copenhagen.
Though the European Union requires pre-stunning for animals, it allows exemptions for religious minorities.
“This has something to do with recognizing that you have a minority and the minority should have some kind of freedom to express its (values),” said Schwarz.
“So we keep hunting and lose ritual slaughter, which actually affects a much bigger group of people — but people whose position in Danish society is weak,” he said.
The Danish government move was also blasted as hypocritical, referring to Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was killed and fed to lions earlier this month to avoid inbreeding.
“It seems as if the priorities are science, animal welfare and religion in that order,” said Johnny Rasmussen, an entrepreneur in the Danish capital.
“I am more interested in what animal welfare organizations say about Marius the giraffe.”
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country's 5.4 million population.
The Scandinavian country has a Jewish minority of about 6,000.
Denmark is the latest European country to approve such a ban: Norway, Sweden and Switzerland passed laws forbidding ritual slaughter decades ago, and the Poles approved a ban in 2012.
The Dutch Senate rejected a bill by the Party for the Animals that same year, while the British have refused to introduce such a bill in spite of intense lobbying by animal rights groups.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ulema Council Denies Halal Certification Graft

Jakarta. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic authority, denied on Wednesday accusations that foreign organizations hoping to sell food in Indonesia had been extorted for bribes during the halal-auditing process.
“For the [halal] certificate issuance, it’s free of charge,” MUI chairman Amidhan Shaberah said, as quoted by state-run Antara News Agency. 
He said that companies were asked to pay travel expenses for MUI auditors and nothing more.
Indonesian news portal reported on Monday that the MUI had accepted large payments from Australian institutions hoping to receive certification.
Sydney Halal Certification Authority chairman Mohamed El-Mouelhy said that his organization and six other Australian institutions had together paid Aus$26,000 ($23,418) to MUI officials in 2006. He said his own organization had paid Aus$4,000 but had not received a license.
“I have to pay all, starting from the food, airplanes, hotel and pocket money,” he said.
The operations manager of Australia’s Al-Iman Society made the same complaint, saying that his organization paid Aus$4,000 without receiving certification.
The money, according to Tempo, was transferred directly to Amidhan.
Australian Halal Food Service, a major Australian halal provider, allegedly transferred Aus$10,000 to prevent MUI from revoking its license, according to the Tempo report.
Amidhan denied the allegations. He said that some organizations did not receive certification because they failed to meet requirements, which include Islamic community service, Islamic education, permanent offices and the presence of a commission consisting of three certified halal auditors and consistent operating procedures.
“They should also have good administration that makes the auditing process easy,” he said.
Certified institution should also be members of the World Halal Food Council, he said, and have the capability to work with the MUI in monitoring products.
“The MUI has 44 institutions which it has licensed to issue halal certification worldwide,” he said.
He said that Australian Halal Food Service had its license suspended for failing to slaughter animals correctly, and not for monetary reasons.
Animals must be slaughtered according to the specific prescriptions of Islamic jurisprudence, as determined by clergy, for their meat to be considered lawful for observant Muslims to consume.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dubai sets sights on halal zones

Dubai plans to develop halal zones to tap into a growing trillion-dollar global market as the emirate seeks to become a capital of the Islamic economy.

Of that, the UAE alone would import $8.4bn worth of halal food by the end of the decade.Arabian Gulf halal food imports are expected to more than double to US$53.1 billion by 2020, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Most halal consumers – Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and Iran – are a few hours’ flying time from Dubai.
Economic Zones World (EZW), which developed Jebel Ali free zone (Jafza), TechnoPark and Dubai Auto Zone, will develop the halal clusters.
Two of them will be located in Jafza and TechnoPark, covering 850,000 square metres and 700,000 square metres respectively. The aim is to attract companies that trade and manufacture halal products.
“It is estimated that one out of every four human beings consumes halal products,” said Essa Kazim, the governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, who is also the chairman of Dubai Financial Market and secretary general of the recently launched Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre.
“Given the latent demand, the potential market for halal products and services is huge and will continue to grow,” he added.
The global halal food industry is estimated at $1 trillion, according to a report from Thompson Reuters in December.
The focus on the halal food industry has gained traction in the UAE after Dubai announced its ambition to become to the world capital of the Islamic economy, which would include the finance and banking, food, tourism, fashion, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and media sectors.
With the demand growing, new and existing food companies are tapping into the market.
Canada’s Prairie Halal Foods has been supplying halal beef, veal and lamb to the UAE since 2008, when the company was set up in Alberta. That year, it started supplying meat, honey, maple syrup and cheese to upmarket restaurants and hotels in the UAE.
The two new zones would help highlight the halal food industry, according to Wahid Kandil, the owner and general manager of Prairie Halal Foods.
“By centralising things and streamlining production, sourcing and shipping, it will ensure that the halal integrity is maintained across the chain,” Mr Kandil said.
His company supplies 50 hotels and restaurants, up from 40 last year. Two years ago, it set up a small butchery and processing unit at Dubai Mall. The company now plans to set up a 465 square metre warehouse and processing facility in Dubai Investment Park to treat daily meat and smoked products that could be shipped to neighbouring countries in the region.
In December, Dubai’s Al Islami Foods announced it would expand its presence in Russia and the Caucasus region to appeal to the Muslim population there, estimated at 284 million.
In 2012, McDonald’s Arabia imported 12,000 tonnes of halal chicken from Malaysia, up by 12.3 per cent from the previous year.
Dubai Municipality announced the emirate will host an international centre for testing and accreditation of halal food by the end of the year.
To be certified as halal, food products need to adhere to criteria governing their entire supply chain, from slaughtering of animals to processing and transportation to preparation and storage.
EZW hopes to develop a halal accreditation centre for occupiers of the planned zones. Currently, companies need to go to Malaysia for accreditation. EZW also expects to attract research development and advisory firms to support the entire halal value chain from production to marketing.
Together, Jafza and TechnoPark already have about 700 companies engaged in the production of halal products. While the Jafza cluster would cater to international markets, the TechnoPark facility would serve local and Arabian Gulf markets.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Challenges for private equity in halal industry

The 57 Muslim majority countries of the OIC have a population of nearly 1.8 billion people and growing, and Islam is the fastest growing religion in many of the non-Muslim countries.
As per capita incomes rises in the emerging markets, includes 57 Muslim countries, a financial foundation for a middle-class and the consumption pattern levels correspondingly rise as consumerism is led by easier access to credit. One of the direct impacts is on increased food consumption, be it consuming more meats at home or eating out in restaurants, from fast food to five stars.
That is a lot of mouths to feed!
Muslims are obliged to consume foods that are within the halal (permissible) guidelines as defined and guided in the Koran (holy book) and sayings and traditions (hadiths) of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUM). The total size of food consumption in the Muslim world is conservatively estimated at $640 billion per annum, which includes Muslims residing in non-Muslim countries.
But, today, Muslims do not control the halal agro-food supply chain, as large non-Muslim owned multinational food companies, from upstream to mid-stream to downstream, are product providers to consumers. Yes, these companies abide by certifications of accreditation bodies in jurisdictions where their products are sold, but is that enough for comfort or confidence?  The challenge comes down to integrity risks, flushed out in 2013 in places like UK and China, and reliance on traceability to address leakage is not an optimal answer. For example, if a DNA of pork is found in, say, halal lamb burger, it makes the consumption prohibited. There is no purification/cleansing in the halal food area, unlike Islamic finance on, say, compliant investing.
We need to start the process of owning the halal-agro-food supply chain, and start process by looking at acquiring privately held SME halal agro-food companies.  One of the issues is access to reliable data!
A query, Would Islamic finance customers feel comfortable (on Shariah compliance) if an Islamic bank was not owned by Muslims? We are seeing the Islamic windows of conventional banks becoming rare, and Qatar’s recent regulation of closing Islamic windows attests to addressing (1) possible confusion of retail customers on co-mingling and (2) authorities not understanding the financial health of the Islamic widow.

The lack of food self-sufficiency in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has the highest per capita income amongst all 57 Muslim countries, has made the ‘import policy’ of food a ‘red alert’ national security issue. For example, one of the contributing factors to the Arab Spring movement was price escalation and lack of availability of basic food staples. Thus, an enticing opportunity exists to address food security issues in the growing and expanding Muslim world via a roll-up strategy of privately held SMEs, say, by a private equity halal agro-food buyout fund with Islamic finance structures and Sukuk (convergence).
Muslim investors, both Islamic and conventional oriented, are more comfortable in buying known companies than building, hence, emphasis of private equity over venture capital.
[Land bank acquisitions to address food security has raise political issues in certain countries by NGOs as benefits not take place locally, plus challenges of negotiating contracts, warehousing and export regulations.]
The post acquisition, integration and incubation will eventually result in the exit. One of the exit strategies includes listing the enlarged company on an OIC stock exchange to build a global halal company brand and establish halal as an asset class as part of promoting inward and intra-OIC investing.

My limited experience in the private equity halal agro-food buyout space suggests the following is right mix for traction:
*Fund manager- does he/she have experience in the food sector, especially emerging markets and can they work effectively with the operational due diligence team
*Team- right mix to address legal, financial, operational and integration due diligence
*Deal flow- ideally proprietary, being wary of brokers shopping stale deals
*As it’s not real estate, oil/gas or healthcare play, raising money for a new asset class (agro-food) fund will be challenge, hence, one to three transactions (co-invest) before launch fund
*Ability to connect with the sellers and making the owner understand that’s its not a financial engineering play with use of excessive leverage and dividend take-out. It must come across that you will help them grow (alignment), especially into new markets as you understand not only import regulations, but also halal certification issues and have access/own a distributor.

A halal agro-food private equity fund is important asset class for investor diversification and food security, but must start out with roll up strategy of SME halal companies before looking at billion halal division of MNC food companies.

The writer is a consultant to Thomson Reuters for Islamic finance and halal Industry. Views expressed by him are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.


Monday, February 24, 2014

AlHuda CIBE will Organize African Islamic Banking and Finance Road Show

Int’l conferences will be organized in Tanzania, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Mauritius during the Road show

 (Lahore): AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE) is committed to hold an International Road Show on Islamic Banking and Finance that will be started from April 2014 form Tanzania and will successfully be ended by September 2014 in Mauritius by organizing Int’l conferences on Islamic Banking and Finance in seven (07) African countries during this entire road show so that African region could progress by taking benefit from the practices of international Islamic banking. Besides Islamic banking and finance, Takaful, Sukuk, Islamic Funds, Islamic Microfinance and various other relevant topics would be discussed during the programs.
Addressing to the announcing ceremony of the Road Show, Muhammad Zubair Mughal, Chief Executive Officer, AlHuda CIBE said that Islamic banking and finance is rapidly increasing all over the world and its assets would reach to 2 trillion dollars by the end of 2014. But unfortunately, the development of Islamic banking and finance is very slow in the entire African region while the 54 African countries could rapidly progress by implementing Islamic finance and Sukuk. The dilemma of African countries is mainly poverty and it could also be overcome through the implementation of Islamic mode of banking and finance in the region where almost 50% population is Muslim while Muslims and non-Muslims both can take benefit of Islamic banking and finance.
While giving reference of Islamic banking and finance in Africa, he further added that there are various countries of Africa where serious efforts are observed for the development and promotion of Islamic banking and finance i.e. Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco South Africa and Nigeria while there are a few countries that are taking rapid initiatives towards Islamic banking like Kenya, Mauritius, Libya, Ghana and Senegal. Current economic conditions have further highlighted the need of Islamic banking and finance and African region would definitely take advantages of it. 
He further said that besides the promotion of Islamic banking and finance, the purpose of the road show is also to acknowledge the need of giving hype to the system beyond any political and religious refrains. Specialized training workshops on various relevant topics will also be part of the international conferences like Takaful workshop in Tanzania, Sukuk workshop in Tunisia, Islamic Microfinance in Nigeria, Sukuk in South Africa, Takaful workshop in Mauritius. The core objective of the entire program is to strengthen the foundations of Islamic banking and finance in African region to give back to the progress of Islamic mode of banking and finance there. 
It is to be noted that AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics is an international organization working for the promotion of Islamic banking and finance that is working for education, trainings, advisory and consultancy. For further details:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Focus on halal food as Gulfood exhibition opens in Dubai

The GCC imports US$25 billion worth of halal food every year, a figure that is predicted to rise to $50bn by 2020.

Halal food consumption is regarded as a key driver of the growth of the global food industry. A report from Thomson-Reuters said global Muslim consumer expenditure last year on food and lifestyle sectors was estimated at $1.62 trillion, about 16.6 per cent of global expenditure. That figure was expected to reach $2.47tn by 2018. Brazil is currently the world’s top exporter of halal meat.With such a high demand for religiously sanctified meat, the Gulfood exhibition that opens in Dubai today is dedicating a pavilion to all things halal for the first time in its 19-year history.
“This year’s show sees the launch of our dedicated halal food platform, Halal World Food, as well as the inaugural World Food Security Summit. This innovative new content will further harness Gulfood’s capacity to drive Dubai’s leading role in steering the global food agenda,” said Helal Al Marri, chief executive of the Dubai World Trade Centre and director general of the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which predicts the 7 per cent yearly growth of the halal food industry to reach $50bn by 2020, the UAE will import $8.4bn of halal foods headed for the region by 2020.
Food security will also be a pressing issue at Gulfood. Up to 90 per cent of all the food consumed in the GCC is imported with little arable land available to farm. Demand for food is set to rise by 50 per cent over the next 20 years across the GCC according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Given the dry desert landscape, many of the countries in the region have turned to purchasing land abroad to grow food. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have 2.8 million hectares overseas, mostly in greenfield sites in North Africa and South Asia.
“Generally in the UAE we are searching for new technologies, greenhouses, investing in seeds that can grow in hot environments,” said Nael Khalil Saifan, chief operating officer at the Abu Dhabi-based agribusiness company Aldahra. “The Mena region needs to invest in research and technology to increase food and agricultural production.”
More than 90 per cent of Aldahra’s core business is growing animal feed, but the company is keen to grow more foodstuffs including rice, grains, potato and wheat for domestic consumption. It has purchased land in Egypt, Morocco and Serbia to grow vegetables and fruit. Its animal feed is grown in South Africa, Pakistan and Portugal.
More than 80,000 trade visitors are expected to attend the five-day Gulfood show, which runs from today through Thursday at the Dubai World Trade Centre, with 4,500 exhibitors from 120 countries.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Denmark set to lose millions following halal slaughter ban

Denmark is likely to lose millions of dollars in trade and tourism revenues following its ban Monday on slaughtering animals in accordance with Islamic standards.
Halal (Islamically slaughtered) beef and poultry products are imported in large quantities by Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf countries. In fact, around 55 percent of Danish exports to the Kingdom are food-based.
The controversial decision is poised to have a drastic effect on the Danish market since the country is likely to come under a comprehensive boycott as it has on more than one occasion in the past.
The Danish government has already come under fire by religious rights groups in Denmark. Danish Halal, a nonprofit group, has described the ban as a “clear infringement of religious freedom.” The ban has also been branded “anti-Semitic” by Jewish leaders.
Dan Jorgensen, Danish food minister, responded to the criticism on Denmark’s TV2, saying “Animal rights come before religion.”
The decision effectively ends the sale of halal products, much to the anger of residents across the Kingdom.
Sources at the the media department of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) have said that the ban should be lifted with immediate effect, saying that it would strain bilateral trade between the two countries, estimated at SR6 billion.
Fahd Mohammed Al-Hammady, chairman of the National Committee for Contractors at the CSC, told Arab News that he staunchly opposes the ban on halal stuff.
“This is sheer hypocrisy on their part. They slaughter giraffes in public to feed lions, yet they ban the slaughter of meat in accordance with religious standards, which is a clear infringement of religious freedom,” said Taha bin Saeed, a Saudi citizen.
A tour operator at the Fursan Group said that Denmark could have received a large number of tourists thanks to the Schengen visa, which enables non-EU nationals to travel freely to 25 European countries. The ban, however, will definitely make Saudi and Arab tourists reluctant to visit the country and will have a negative effect on tourism, said one agent.
The Danish Embassy in Riyadh could not be reached for comment during the weekend.

Source: arab news

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Two Research & Training Giants of Islamic Banking & Finance signed Agreement

AlHuda CIBE & INAYAH Joined Hands to Promote Islamic Banking & Finance Globally 
(Jordan) An agreement to promote Islamic Banking & Finance was signed between AlHuda Center of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE) and INAYAH Islamic Finance Research Institute (IIFRI) in an impressive ceremony, which was held today in the Capital of Jordan, Amman.  The Agreement was mutually signed by Dr. Nidal Alsayyed, President and CEO of IIFRI and Muhammad Zubair Mughal, Chief Executive Officer - AlHuda CIBE. According to the agreement, both institutions will jointly work together for the promotion of state of the art applied research and training in multi Islamic Finance areas, particularly in Sukuk and Islamic Microfinance through research, publications, Training, Consulting, Public awareness, and capacity building services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Dr. Nidal Alsayyed, President and CEO – INAYAH said that there is an immense need of synergizing for enhanced Islamic Finance awareness and capacity building at present. He also added that such joint initiative taken by AlHuda CIBE and IIFRI is a promising one, which will prop up Islamic Finance in the region. He said that  INAYAH, collaborating with AlHuda CIBE, shall collectively enhance the awareness and capacity building in Islamic Banking and Finance through master level programs in many other countries including Pakistan.
Muhammad Zubair Mughal, CEO – AlHuda CIBE, highlighted the importance of the agreement, admired such a joint initiative in Islamic Finance taken by AlHuda CIBE and IIFRI and said that it is actually a unique proposition between two dedicated research institutions of Islamic Finance where both of the institutions, connecting their regional and professional expertise, shall work together for joint research on Islamic finance related topics, publications, reports, capacity building, and other related important aspects. He said that agreements, MOUs, and mergers between Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions is the routine practice, but this agreement for joint research in Islamic finance has a unique proposition, which will have a positive impact in the Islamic finance industry. He said that there is an immediate need for research in different aspects of Islamic finance, particularly Islamic Microfinance and Sukuk.  Mughal emphasized that while AlHuda CIBE has substantially worked on different assignments of Islamic microfinance, INAYAH has special expertise in Sukuk structuring and Training, therefore both of the institutions will strategically pool their resources, expertise, and skill to grow the Islamic Microfinance and Sukuk  based platforms on a regional level.
INAYAH is a Jordan based institution, which is working for the growth of Islamic finance having offices in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UK, and other countries, while AlHuda CIBE has been aggressively working for the Islamic Banking and Finance industry with state of the art education, research, advisory, and consultancy services for the last ten (10) years.