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Al Safa and ISNA Break Ties

Al Safa Halal is seeking a new Halal Certifier after a fallout with the Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada).

Al Safa Halal is the non-Muslim owned Kitchener, Ontario-based meat company that used to get its beef and chicken products certified as Halal by ISNA-Canada.

On August 20 1999, ISNA-Canada announced Al Safa, along with its parent company, MGI Packers were no longer certified by ISNA-Canada due to “concerns that Al-Safa and MGI Packers have not been able to meet the standards required for ISNA-Canada's certification.”

The announcement also said the withdrawal of Halal certification was effective August 20 but did not give details as to what ISNA-Canada considered a breach of its standards.

Three days later, Al Safa Halal responded with its own announcement.

“Unfortunately, it sounds from the ISNA Canada announcement that something has changed in the Zabiha at MGI,” it reads. “The Zabiha at MGI has not changed. MGI continues to be, as it has been since 1991, an entirely Zabiha plant, with slaughter performed correctly by Muslims.”

According to Al Safa's announcement, differences between Al Safa Halal and ISNA-Canada began with a disagreement over how the slaughter of chicken is conducted.

ISNA-Canada certifies as Halal chicken that is slaughtered using machines.

But Al Safa Halal's consumers did not agree with this position.

“Virtually every consumer either by phone or by e-mail expressed their shock and disappointment that the chicken was machine-slaughtered because they felt it was not Halal,” says David Muller, one of Al Safa's owners, in an interview with Sound Vision.“We would not have gotten the support that we have received if we used machine slaughtered [meat],” he added.

Al Safa's August 23 announcement says after consumers demanded a stop to using ISNA-endorsed machine-slaughtered chicken, the company “immediately suspended manufacture of the chicken products and began searching for a hand-slaughtered chicken Zabiha”

They selected Madina Wholesale, which is based in the Toronto, Canada area. After this, Muller says, Al Safa resumed its production of chicken products. But this led to further problems with ISNA-Canada.

“Unfortunately, ISNA Canada refused to certify the hand-slaughtered poultry by Madina Wholesale,” says Al Safa's August 23 announcement.  

“We had a choice to make. We felt that the hand-slaughter was so important to our customers that we had to go with hand-slaughtered chicken. As a result of ISNA Canada's refusal to certify the hand-slaughtered Zabiha, we had no choice but to terminate ISNA Canada's certification of Al Safa products, and we sent ISNA Canada a letter to that effect on July 8, 1999.  We would like to highlight the point that Al Safa terminated ISNA Canada's [sic] services, not the other way around.”

Ashraf, however, tells a very different story.

“ISNA has never refused to certify any hand slaughtered Zabiha,” he says. “We were willing to certify, but they [Al Safa Halal] put the condition that they would pay a low salary to the Muslim slaughtermen.”

This is also why ISNA-Canada decided to no longer certify MGI.

”If we lose confidence, as we did in Al Safa, then how could you keep the same confidence in its parent company which is MGI?” asks Ashraf.

Al Safa seeks Certification from IFANCA

Currently, Al Safa is seeking Halal certification from the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA). The Illinois-based nonprofit organization certifies as Halal, products in the U.S. as well as foodstuffs for shipment to Malaysia.

Muller says the deal is almost done. Al Safa's August 23 announcement goes so far as saying, “we are currently in the final stages of discussions with IFANCA (Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) to perform certification services for both MGI Packers and Al Safa Halal.”

But this is news to Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini, IFANCA's executive director.

“Al Safa's request has come to IFANCA and its Halal slaughter committee is discussing it” he says, surprised that any notion of a final deal was mentioned in the August 23 announcement.

IFANCA president Muhammad Munir Chaudry, says, “our board of directors have to make that final decision,” to certify or not certify Al Safa Halal, and adds, “we want to make sure we have complete information from whatever sources we can.”

Some of these, he says, include MGI, Al Safa, ISNA, Al Safa's distributors, as well as some of the Imams and influential community leaders who have visited Al Safa and MGI.

Chaudry says a final decision on certifying Al Safa Halal should be made by the beginning of October.

A New Page on Halal and Healthy
What Fast Food is Halal to Eat
Health Guidelines From Quran and Sunnah
Non Muslim Halal Business: the Al Safa update

Kosher Labeling: How it Works
Animals fed animals: Are they halal? Hormones etc.
Homeless Kids on Capitol Hill
Defend the Food Stamp Program

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