The Byron Bay Cookie Company must have been shocked by the number of angry comments on its Facebook page regarding “halal-certified Anzac biscuits”. The company had cheerfully declared that it would be “sending cookies to the Australian troops stationed overseas for Anazc day. If you would like to send them a special message, please comment on this post and we’ll collate all your messages.” No mention was made of the halal certification, but the word was out, courtesy of the sleuths at Boycott Halal in Australia.
The comments ranged from bafflement to fury at the company’s alleged betrayal of Australian values — “Halal certified cookies which finance the spread of the very ideology that motivates the killers of our sons and daughters? Your moral compass needs a serious re-adjustment”, ” for example. There were vows never again to buy Byron Bay Cookie Company products, as well as expressions of support for Australian troops and their sacrifices. The company responded that it was trying to be “respectful and inclusive”, which drew further lashings of ire.
Multiculturalism, that brilliant policy by which people in all Western countries, that is, all developed nations, were to enjoy “unity in diversity” and become “strong” by means of non-discriminatory and fast-paced immigration (in Kate Lundy’s earnest but hilarious words, “One of the reasons I believe Australians are so good at sport is because we are so culturally diverse”) appears not to be producing another iteration of the post-World War II immigration boom’s “New Australians” so much as as a re-made Australia. It hardly needs to be said that deep divisions are appearing in the overall population on which the policy was imposed.
Even some of the most ardent “tolerance and diversity” enthusiasts are becoming uneasy about the ever-burgeoning demands by Muslim arrivals, whose more enterprising members have found ways not only to extract expensive privileges to do with “religious requirements” (prayer rooms, special Muslim officers in councils, and so on) but also to promote the halal-certification business.
There are several halal-certification bodies in Australia, and their annual fees appear arbitrary, depending on the body which has found its way to the particular food producer. Manufacturers tend to be coy when asked about the fees they are paying, and most of this information tends to come from companies which have been offered and refused certification. While halal butchers have long been familiar to Australians, the tiny Arabic markings found on manufactured foodstuffs, denoting permissibility for consumption by Muslims as free of any traces of forbidden foods, are a recent phenomenon. While it is understandable that observant Muslims might enjoy the convenience of simply locating the mark on processed food products, rather than peering at those small-print lists list of ingredients, the little halal mark is finding its way onto a range of unlikely comestibles.
Would a Muslim really concern himself with the contents of a can of coconut milk or pure corn oil, or the possible affront to his faith posed by an ingredient in his chocolate Easter egg, given that he might be keen to celebrate the resurrection of the man revered by Christians as the Messiah? He would be unsettled, apparently, and he might be further discomforted to learn that the driver of the van transporting items marked “halal” was actually an infidel. And what about ships? If the transported foodstuffs are to be deemed truly halal, should not the captain and crew be Muslims? Then there is the matter of the port where the ship docks, as foodstuffs can so easily be made impure. Don’t laugh, there is an officially declared “halal port” in Rotterdam, and no doubt more are coming. Logistics is just a step in that expansion and evolution, but there are many others.
Yes, indeed, many a reader will say, we know they’re fussy, those Muslims, and so what? Jews also can be fussy with their kosher requirements. It doesn’t matter, the logic of conspicuous tolerance goes, because we are a sophisticated nation and entirely correct to scoff at our knuckle-draging fellow citizens’ “xenophobia” and reluctance to make a big noise “celebrating difference”. And, hey, isn’t Australia a much more interesting place nowadays?
But kosher labels do not target the entire community. And, as the Byron Bay Cookie Company, Cadbury and Purina Catfood, and hundreds of other non-Muslim companies are finding out, Australians have started to notice manufacturers’ amenable attitude to the suggestion made by certification bodies regarding potential Muslim buyers of their products, both in Australia and in Muslim countries, should they sign up and pay up. Research by interested citizens shows that Australians have little choice but to donate to the cause of Islamic expansion and imposition of sharia worldwide because of widespread manufacturers’ compliance with the scheme.
In a submission to a 2011 parliamentary inquiry, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils’ (AFIC) Ikebal Patel stated:
“The submission cites regulations governing Islamic finance and halal certification in Australia as examples of how legal pluralism can work … It seems that in two areas, namely Islamic finance and halal food, the Australian government has been actively involved”.
Choice of purchase is made difficult because some companies pay for certification but do not display it on their packaging, and also because many supermarkets simply do not think it worth providing choice. (I was treated quite rudely at a supermarket I regularly frequent when I asked if the store buyers could try to provide non-halal choices. At first I was told it “didn’t make any difference”, then that I should “tell the manufacturers” and finally, “well, this is Brunswick!” as if Brunswick, with a growing number of Muslim residents, were already under unassailable sharia law).
Such a hostile reaction is not uncommon in our new, race-obsessed Australia. Opposition to Islamic cultural inroads and even imposition of fees and other costs on Australian citizens is often met with the accusation of “racism” or “bigotry” or both. One can only imagine the reaction from that side of the cultural divide should a Christian group mine the Bible for suitable words and set up a similar scheme. Apoplexy would be only the beginning.
However, Muslim “scholars” keen on expanding the halal concept to further the cause of Allah have perused the Islamic texts for inspiration, and found it. The halal foodstuffs ruse has been so successful, and opposition so negligible, that new avenues have been discovered which combine the sensibilities of the modern West with Islamic pride and ambition. Thus does “halal” meet “sustainability”. A Monash University School of Business research project is exploring the possibilities. Its head of management, Professor Pervaiz Ahmed, is “investigating the meaning and practical implications of halal in the areas of sustainable economic development, societal health and community welfare.” As a report in The Australian explains:
“For a country’s halal industry to compete internationally, Professor Ahmed says its ecosystem must meet the standards imposed by Islamic philosophy, and also place its benchmarks higher than those of conventional systems. To this end, the Monash project is broadening the definition of halal to its original and deeper philosophical meaning – a process that calls into question the status of many things classified as halal. Under this reading, fish (usually regarded as halal) would not be halal if it came from an endangered or over-fished species. Cruelty to animals in halal abattoirs would also render the meat ‘not halal’.”
The implied flattery of non-Muslims and their environmental concerns is a change from the usual assertion of higher ethics claimed for Islam banking practices and personal matters, but the message is tailored to the market as befits the goal, which is the expansion of Islamic influence. In this instance the courting of fashionable opinion would seem to represent an astute and prudent strategy.
“Some will say we are setting the bar too high,” Professor Ahmed explains. “But if non-Muslims are to buy halal products, the label has to signify animal rights and species protection.”
The academic world also represents a shrewd stage for the promotion of “halal ecosystems” because the post-modern community, if I can label it thus, has largely rejected Christianity. The rejection is broad-based, but one specific element in which Christianity has become discredited is its reputed disrespect for the natural world in placing mankind, allegedly made in God’s image, at the centre of His creation. If Islam can impress with their green credentials those who feel Westerners have despoiled the earth — here, conjure a mental image of those credulous souls who turned out at rallies to support the Carbon Tax, then imposition of an Islamic eco-tax, such as that manifested by halal certification, is likely to seem justifiable. Gaia, after all, would approve of any measure that makes her lot a little esier.
As Islamic violence, increasingly macabre, rages throughout the Middle East and Africa and sporadic attacks occur in too many other areas to mention, as Christians are abused, murdered and their churches destroyed in foreign lands, Australians are being encouraged to purr over the concept of “halal ecosystems” and halal-approved “freshness”; and purr the writer of this Monash article certainly did. Had journalistic curiosity been a factor, the article might have asked about “endangered or over-fished” Middle East Christians, or whether the knives of the Prophet’s head-lopping militants are kept very sharp and in full accordance with halal requirements.
“War is deceit,” advised the Prophet Mohammed, and our “anti-racist” activists, as well as most academics and journalists have neither the training and imagination nor the will to recognize it — unlike the Byron Bay Cookie Company’s opponents.
Antonia Newton is the pseudonym of a Melbourne writer whose desire for anonymity reflects her frequent travels in the Muslim world