Controversy around Al-Safa's Halal continues

Muslim consumers have a right to know the following facts about the products produced by "Al-Safa" a Canada based company.

What is in a Name?

When you look at the name of the company, it reads "Al-Safa." When you look at the logo of the company, it has a mosque, minaret, and date trees. What a beautiful Islamic symbol! To further win the hearts of the Muslim consumer, Al-Safa has "Halal" written in Arabic on its packages.

Furthermore, when you call at the toll free number given on the green colored flier and ads, the recording at the other side starts, with "Assalam - Alaikum" . What a beautiful greeting! After the greeting, a female voice runs the menu. The first two names that she mentions are Muslim names. The other non-Muslim names follow these two Muslim names.

Behind the facade of this outward appearance, i.e., the name (Al-Safa), Islamic symbolism, Muslim names of personnel, etc., the fact is that Al-Safa is owned and operated by a non-Muslim. There is nothing wrong in having the company owned and operated by a non-Muslim. Muslims and non-Muslims routinely buy things produced by each others. Muslims buy Kosher products all the time because Quran allows Muslims to do that. Muslims are very open minded consumers. What is wrong is that the branding gives an impression of its Islamic identity.

Reciprocity between Halal and Kosher

Many Jewish Rabbi and Kosher meat producers approached Muslim Halal meat producers and asked if Muslims can buy the hind quarter of an animal slaughtered according to the Kosher standard (Jews do not consume the hind quarter even though the animal is slaughtered according to Kosher law). When they are replied asking if the Jewish community would buy the front quarter of an animal slaughtered according to the Halal/Zabiha standard; their answer was emphatically: No!

It seems to be a matter of trust and comfort level. Halal is the identity of Muslims and Kosher is the identity of the Jews. Let each group keep their respective identities protected and catered by their own people and businesses.

Halal /Zabiha Claim

Al-Safa was first under the Halal supervision of ISNA, Canada (Islamic Society of North America) for quite some time. ISNA, Canada withdrew its Halal certification in August, 1999. The reason given was Al-Safa and MGI (parent company of Al-Safa) have not been able to meet the standard required for ISNA, Canada's certification standard. Al-Safa, on the other hand, claimed that ISNA Canada would not certify the hand slaughtered poultry which was demanded by the Muslim consumers. It is really confusing. Why would ISNA Canada not certify the hand slaughtered poultry. The reasons given by either party were vague and confusing.

After dropping ISNA Canada, Al-Safa found another organization called IFANCA (Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) based in Chicago to authenticate its Halal/Zabiha claim.

ISNA Canada is located in the Toronto area where Al-Safa's products are manufactured in the vicinity plants. If ISNA Canada could not supervise the production, how can IFANCA based in Chicago supervise the production of various products sitting in Chicago. The claim of "Open door policy" by Al-Safa and the claim of "strict standards for Halal food processing and marketing" by IFANCA seems nothing more than a empty slogans. In practice it simply does not work. The verification is simply next to impossible. It is only "Taqwa" on the part of the manufacturer that can guarantee the Halal claim. It is a fact that even some of the Muslim Halal stores have failed this test of "Taqwa" across North America.

When the motive is profitability and not a commitment to Halal/Zabiha, regardless of whether it is a Muslim, Jew or any one else, the Halal claim cannot and must not be trusted.

Does it make a business Sense for the Muslim community?

There are an estimated six million Muslims in the North America. Halal/Zabiha is the food that they are all supposed to eat. Demand for Halal/ Zabiha food is growing rapidly. Up until now, local Halal/Zabiha stores owned and operated by Muslims were catering to the Halal/Zabiha demand of Muslim consumers. Now Al-Safa, a non-Muslim manufacturer has come up with a Halal line of products with a distribution network all over North America. Obviously his connections had helped him in getting these products in the American supermarkets across North America. For a Muslim producer, it is not at all possible.

The local Halal/Zabiha stores are happily carrying Al-Safa's nicely packaged Halal line of products. Muslim consumers are happy for the convenience of those products. Al-Safa's products have already captured the Muslim market and are now available both in American supermarkets and local Halal meat stores across North American continent.

Al-Safa started with cold cuts. It will soon get into Halal meat and Halal poultry. In fact, it has advertised for its bulk fresh poultry program (50 pound cases, gas flushed, hand slaughtered Zabiha). When those nicely packaged products will be available in American supermarkets, Muslim consumers will buy the Halal meat and poultry from the American supermarkets. Why would they spend hours waiting in local Muslim Halal meat stores? Evidently, this will dry out the local Muslim Halal meat and poultry stores. The Muslim owned Halal stores will then be wiped out and go out of business. The Muslim consumers will then be buying their Halal meat and poultry from American supermarkets. That will be the end of the Muslim producers of Halal meat and poultry. Muslim consumers will then be totally dependent on non-Muslim producers for their Halal meat/poultry supply.

What to do

It is halal for Muslims to buy Kosher meat, but we don't have to buy halal from non-Muslims as well. Jewish people should consider allowing Muslims to enter Kosher meat market if they want to capture halal meat market. We understand that it is a sensitive issue for Jews as well as Muslims. Therefore, let Muslims control halal as Jews control Kosher. Fair enough?

Let the Muslim consumers not be easy bait under the guise of convenience. Yes the packaging is alluring. Yes, the product is appealing; yes, the product could be Halal, although an element of doubt is there, but is it worth using it at the cost of Muslim identity and Muslim halal business? Beyond the simple issue of Halal and Zabiha, what is the Masleha and wisdom? Get the bigger picture. Think about it. An informed consumer is the best consumer.

The Halal cold cuts manufactured by local Muslims are available in the market. Buy from these local Muslim manufacturers and producers. Let Zabiha halal be a business by Muslims for Muslims.

Discuss with your Imams, leaders and most of all with common Muslims. The ummah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) can never become unanimous on error. The masses have exhibited more wisdom many times and saved the ummah from grave dangers. Every Muslim must think and make choices which would be beneficial to the Ummah in the long run.

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