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Halal market poised for further growth

The export of Halal meat earns New Zealand about $490 million every year.

Halal is an axiomatic pivot of our export market.

According to available information, the annual international trade in Halal meat and food is worth over US$ 2.3 trillion.

Crucially, more than one billion Muslim consumers across the globe prize Halal Certification as proof that the food is slaughtered according to the Shariah.

Historically, the early identifiable Muslims to undertake Halal slaughter in New Zealand were perhaps members of the Kara family, who arrived in Canterbury in 1907, from Gujarat, India.

Their meat was purely for personal or domestic consumption.

First Halal

The first commercial Halal slaughter in New Zealand was performed by the late Hajji Abbas Ali, who migrated from Fiji in 1962 to work at Borthwicks in Masterton as the first certified Halal slaughter man.

The Mufti of Johore in Malaysia issued him with a Certificate, recognising his Muslim identity and qualifications.

Ali carefully and clearly stamped the carcase of every animal he had killed.

Later, he became a key figure in the International Muslim Association of New Zealand (IMAN), known as the Wellington Muslim Association.

His son Hajji Hanif Ali served in many positions in the Association and later at the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ).

In a similar vein, Hajji Mohammed Hussein Sahib, also from Fiji, was recruited to work for AFFCO in Ngaruawahia in 1969. He obtained his Halal stamp and certificate from authorities in Pakistan and served FIANZ as a regional Halal Supervisor in the 1980s.

Commercial confusion

There was little interest in exporting Halal meat or food, or employing Muslims as Halal slaughter men until the 1970s.

Mazar Krasniqi, an energetic Albanian businessman based in Panmure, Auckland, saw the opportunity to sell meat in the Middle East.

He started a personal campaign to persuade the local meat companies and the New Zealand Government of the merits of this idea.

The New Zealand Government was very slow to respond.

A 2004 Christchurch Press newspaper investigation revealed that when New Zealand’s Ambassador to Rome Phil Holloway visited Libya in 1974, he was reportedly startled by all the road signs in Arabic.

Throughout the 1970s, there was no framework or centre for coordination on the issue of Halal meat or food in New Zealand.

Exporters had very little information.

Instead, there was a multiplicity of individuals and agencies undertaking Halal slaughter and certification for their own purposes, often commercial in nature.

For example, the Egyptian embassy in Wellington issued its own Halal certificates, whilst the Saudis channelled their concerns here through the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce.

The New Zealand Meat Producers Board introduced the rule of divide et impera (divide and rule) in the 1980s, preferring to engage the Halal certification business services of the New Zealand Islamic Meat Management’’ Company.

Composite Organisation

Over 1978 and 1979, Dr Ashraf Chaudhary, Dr Hanif Quazi, Hajji Abdul Rahim Rasheed and Krasniqi staged a series of community meetings and persuaded the three regional Muslim organisations extant at that period – the New Zealand Muslim Association in Auckland, the IMAN in Wellington and the Muslim Association of Canterbury (created in 1977), to form a nationwide Federation.

Krasniqi was appointed president of FIANZ on April 15, 1979 and was granted authority next year to issue Halal certificates in an official letter by Hajji Ali Al Harakan, Secretary General of the international Saudi charitable agency Rabitah Al Alam Al Islami (Muslim World League).

The Federation has supervised Halal certification of most meat and foodstuffs in New Zealand since 1984, with an initial annual contract for $169,000 with the New Zealand Meat Producers Board.

By 2001, Halal certification fees rose $537,929 and by 2002, FIANZ was earning $601,243.

It comes as no surprise that the Muslim community leaders involved in those nascent Halal negotiations of the early 1980s (Krasniqi, Dr Choudhary, Hajji Rasheed and Dr Hajji Khalid Sandhu) were the first local Muslims to be awarded the Queen’s Service Medal.

The 19th century German philosopher and writer Friedrich Nietzsche once said “There are no facts, only interpretations.

History is frequently dismissed as a mere narrative construction, some cognitive dissonance, and most folk perceive History as myth, an impediment to their real work and frequently fail to totally grasp the deeper and more penetrating revelations and insights.

The significance of a comprehension of the development of Halal slaughter and food processing in New Zealand is that it allows us to better understand where we stand presently on the Halal issue.

Abdullah Drury is a former social secretary of the Muslim Association of Canterbury. He now lives in Hamilton. Email: abdullah@xtra.co.nz

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