Wider halal acceptance means more employment for Moro — Islamic scholar

Sheikh Salih D. Musa, an Islamic scholar from this city and concurrently the secretary-general of National Halal Fatwa Council, said he was hopeful that unemployment, a plague among Moro Muslim communities, would be reduced when the country gets its slice in supplying halal-certified products to the Middle Eastern countries.

The council would be the certifying body for halal foods and Musa disclosed that one of the policies in certifying halal products was requiring companies that “there must be Muslim workers in the supply and production divisions of food companies to monitor that no haram components would be mixed or added in the process.”

Halal means permissible or lawful, and its opposite is haram, which literally means unlawful or forbidden.

Musa has scored the continued discrimination against the Moro saying that “it is a fact that employers are reluctant to accept Muslims to work in their companies out of distrust and prejudice.”

“However, should they want their products to be certified Halal, they should hire Muslim workers.” he stressed.

“It is this policy in Halal certification that will benefit us, Muslims,” Musa said.

Muslims would be necessary to monitor and ensure the observance of halal practices through the entire process of food production, he said.

While fattening the cattle to produce corned beef, for instance, Muslims must ensure that feeds must be free from any haram ingredients, like dried ground innards of swine, he said.

“In the process of producing canned meat products like beef loaf, there must be no lard or ground liver from swine that shall be secretly added in the production,” Musa said. He said they have received reports indicating that ground swine liver was being added in canned tuna products to improve its taste.

Often, he said, “the producer does not declare this ingredient in the labels”.

Islamic doctrine mandates that Muslims are allowed to consume only halal foods. Meat from swine, dog, blood of animals, animals with canine and snakes are considered haram.

For products from cattle or poultry to be certified halal, it must be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law and assured of hygienic handling or process from “farm to plate.” Musa said that canned goods should undergo laboratory test by Muslim chemists, to determine if there were haram components or ingredients present.

A team of ulama, or Islamic scholars, who will comprise the halal certification body will issue “halal seal” to products that could meet international halal standard. Halal seal marked in label will inform consumers who are Muslims that the product is fit for their consumption.

A team of representatives from government agencies led by the Department of Trade and Industry, businessmen from the National Capital Region and Musa, who represented the ulama, went to Brunei Tuesday for a weeklong “Halal Familiarization Visit”.  The team will also attend the Brunei International Trade Expo also this week.

Their weeklong stay will expose them to Brunei’s standard in halal certification and production through visitation in food companies in the country.

Musa said he was hopeful that the country would soon set up a “well-equipped laboratory” that will meet international halal certification standard for them to start operating.

The National Halal Fatwa Council with the Muslim Business Forum will be preparing ‘Halal Production Guideline’ to educate owners of food companies who are enthusiastic to engage in Halal production.

Jamil Hamsa Olermo, founding Chairman of Muslim Business Forum and founder of Halal Resource Center, had earlier said that “there is great hope for halal industry to flourish in our country considering the world Muslim population of 1.2 billion and halal food worldwide valued at more than $80 billion a year”.

Musa also quoted Olermo as saying that “halal industry here, once it will penetrate the world market and Mindanao as halal hub of the country, will boost Philippine export and drag us into economic bliss”.

Musa is also the country director of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth – Philippines, an international body that caters to the concerns of Muslim youths all over the world. The assembly is recognized by the United Nations and has been engaged in building mosques and madaris (Islamic schools), sponsoring youth camps, Islamic seminars and technical training, scholarship for orphans, advocating peace and development with other stakeholders. (Gandhi C. Kinjiyo/MindaNews )