At least one Australian company has caved to a social media campaign against Halal certification, but a number of others are resisting.
Halal products are made using processes that comply with Islamic religious beliefs, allowing producers to access potentially lucrative markets for Australian businesses wanting to export to Islamic countries.
But websites like “Halal Choices” are encouraging people to boycott businesses that have had their goods Halal-certified, claiming that certification fees are funding terrorism.
The terrorism funding claims have been dismissed as baseless.
The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company has lost a $50,000 deal with Emirates to supply its yoghurt to the Dubai-based airline.
The company’s products are naturally Halal, but Fleurieu decided to pay a $1000 fee to get the certification so it could clinch the Emirates deal.
But Fleurieu has now dropped the certification after being bombarded with criticism on social media.
Its marketing manager, Nick Hutchinson, said they believed it was in the best interests of their business.
“We’ve now received a lot of backlash for making this call about giving in to minority groups and so forth and we understand that,” he told SBS.
“I guess unless you’re in the position where you’re copping the abuse and sitting there, it’s a hard one. But, unlike other companies we knew that we could continue to supply Islamic countries if we wanted to, without the certification.”
Facebook sites such as Boycott Halal have also targeted the company with claims that Halal certification fees end up financing terrorism.
The company said it became a victim of online bullying, but Kirralie Smith from Halal Choices told the ABC it was raising valid questions as to why the certification was needed.
“We have a different definition of bullying, because they’re questions that need to be asked,” she said.
“Why does a milk company have to pay fees when Muslims will consume their product anyway and there are Muslims commenting on those things saying that’s right, there should be no certification fees on milk.”
However, the manager of Muslim Australia Halal Services and Islamic Affairs Anas Nadvi, said the certification process is regulated.
“Regarding the income of Halal certification, there’s no way to support terrorist organisations by any means,” Dr Nadvi told SBS.
“Halal certifying bodies are monitored by the government, the Department of Forests and Fishery in Australia.”
The head certifier at Halal Australia, Mohammad Khan, also told SBS there was no evidence to support the terrorism funding allegations.
He said the anti-Halal groups are simply engaged in an anti-Muslim campaign.
“Circumstantial evidence suggests that it’s nothing but anti-Muslim campaign and that’s not very healthy for the future generation as well,” he said.
“It is damaging for national economic growth in Australia, also for the harmony of future generations, so we are really stirring up the situation for nothing and creating some kind of confusion and hatred, particularly amongst our children, so that’s not a very healthy sign.”
Other brands targeted include Cadburys, Sanitarium, Byron Bay Cookies and Four ‘N Twenty.
Byron Bay Cookies said Halal certification allows it to have healthy exports and has enabled it to be one of the biggest employers in Byron Bay.
Four ‘N Twenty also decided to fight the campaign by defending itself in the online space by explaining its position.