It was with a mixture of utter disbelief and a sense of relief that I viewed the 3rd Degree expose' on eTV regarding Orion Cold Storage and the MJC's granting of a Halaal Certificate to them, even though they were selling and re-labelling pork and kangaroo meat.
The issue is a complex one, but I shall attempt to break it down to you in bite-sized Halaal portions as best I can.
Orion Cold Storage is based in the Western Cape and headed by Patrick Gaertner. As a leading distributor of frozen meat and poultry to the province and continent at large, they have a significant Muslim client-base.
MJC is the Islamic authority that certifies or has certified Orion Cold Storage as being Halaal, until very recently.
Toward the end of last year, allegations were made of Orion re-labelling their boxes from 'Pork' to 'Veal', thus supplying their unsuspecting Muslim client base with pork products. Questions were asked as to why MJC, the certifying body, had not acted on this and where were their inspectors to prevent this. Why did it take footage from employees to blow the lid on this scandal? Why did the MJC only act decisively after having had a meeting with other Halaal certifying authorities, pleading with it to suspend dealings with Orion?
Before I continue, I must disclose my views on all these Halaal certifying bodies. You can read my post titled The Silence Of The Ham which was published last year prior to any of these allegations surfacing.
Once the lid had been blown and Orion were caught with their pants down, it was the absolute duty of the MJC as the certifying body to immediately disclose to the public what had transpired, and undertake a massive campaign of informing everybody concerned as to what they intended to do. As late as 28 November 2011, MJC were standing by Orion and had issued a statement on their website stating clearly that Orion's chicken imports had not been compromised. Their statement as can be read here is a pathetic attempt at appeasing the Muslim public.
I use a very simple logic when it comes to such matters. Just as a drop of blood taints an entire bucket of clean water, so too the importation and re-labelling of pork products as veal cannot by any stretch of the imagination leave the chicken imports from the same company untainted!
It's really that simple MJC.
When Debora Patta from eTV's 3rd Degree attempted to interview the leadership of MJC, she was met with evasiveness and blatant lies. Being told that neither the President of MJC (Ighsaan Hendricks) nor his deputy (Sheikh Sedick) were available due to illness, only to find out later that Ighsaan Hendricks was in fact on the premises conducting an unrelated meeting smacked of deceit. They were fully aware that they would face a barrage of tough questions, and chose instead to hide from the truth.
Making a statement after the event in a futile attempt to save face and whatever dignity he had left, Ighsaan Hendricks as President then issued this statement on the company website. Reading this, one cannot wonder just how far back in the dark ages these 'Men of faith' and 'Bastions of religion' really are stuck? I cannot help but wonder how much of the antagonistic attitude was due to Debora Patta being first non-Muslim, and second, a woman? I have no doubt that the leadership at MJC found it beneath them to be questioned and grilled by a non-Muslim woman.
When we as a religion remove these shackles which bind us and prevent us from moving forward, then and only then will we be able to call ourselves a democratic religion of lifestyle. If Islam is a lifestyle more than it is a religion, as we are so often told, then we need to have a really good re-assessment of our lifestyles.
This PR nightmare could so easily have been prevented had the MJC simply answered the questions, tough as they were. Confront your accuser, appease your constituency, make right all that is wrong, and you will find favour amongst the Muslim public.
Treat them as beneath you, not worthy of answers to the tough questions, and you have effectively isolated yourself and lost all credibility in the process.
With the vast array of Halaal authorities we as Muslims are subjected to, it should come as no surprise that our level of trust in any one or all of them is at an all-time low. For many years we have been in this conundrum of being unsure as to which certifying body to trust, choosing instead to pin our hopes on one or the other and applying some common sense.
I take the approach that I shall support the Muslim owned business, and put my faith and trust in him that he is supplying me with a Halaal product. The store owner in turn places his trust and faith in his supplier. The supplier in turn places his faith and trust in the importer or packager. They ultimately place their faith and trust in the abbatoirs. I call this the chain-of-trust from the bottom upward.
What the MJC have effectively done in one massive swoop is to completely pull the rug out from beneath our feet, and place an enormous level of distrust on the top rung.
How then can we as Muslims even begin to place our trust in the store owner at the bottom?
Thank you MJC for tainting with absolute certainty what was once a bucket of sceptically clean water.
Further links to articles can be found here
Lastly, I urge all media publications with a Muslim base to please report on these matters objectively and honestly. There are many that have failed to report on Debora Patta or 3rd Degrees valid questions, choosing instead to only inform the public of MJC's stance.
Trying to portray the MJC as the victim is an injustice and furthermore an insult to the Muslim public. It is the Muslim consumer who is the victim of deceit.
In this vain, I am calling for a ban on any and all MJC certified products, companies, restaurants and other FMCG items.
Stop the flow of money to MJC and you stop the greed and rot.