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Islamic Lifestyle
New study calls for fairer treatment and representation of Muslims and Islam in UK media reporting

Study reveals almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of TV clips associate Muslims or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.

 

London: A new study has called for Muslims and Islam to receive fairer treatment in reporting and coverage at mainstream online and broadcast media outlets in the UK.

The report, titled ‘British Media’s Coverage of Muslims & Islam (2018-2020)’, was published by the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), a project of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). The MCB is a national Muslim umbrella organisation and includes mosques, scholars, charities and professional networks.

The report analysed over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips on 34 media outlets via their online websites and 38 TV channels between October 2018 to September 2019. The study revealed almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of TV clips associate Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.

“While neither Muslims nor Islam should be immune from criticism or inquiry, where warranted, we do expect this to be done fairly and with due care, without resorting to well-worn tropes and generalisations,” said Faisal Hanif, the report’s author.

“This study is valuable to both the academic community, and more so to newsrooms and journalists, and will in some way go towards improving reporting and coverage of Muslims and their beliefs in the coming years,” he said.

The CfMM seeks to improve the quality of reporting of Islam and Muslims in the British media. It does this by hosting roundtables, publishing reports as well as working with stakeholders including the media, regulators, policymakers, and community organisations.

To launch the report, CfMM hosted a webinar, and included panellists from major UK-based outlets including the BBC, the Guardian and the Mirror. During the webinar, the report’s authors, members of the audience and panellists engaged in discussions.

Panellists agreed that British media should do a better job in reporting both positive and negative stories of Muslim communities. They also commented that one of the long-term challenges is changing the cultural mentality of traditional newsrooms.

Key findings show that over one in five online articles had a primary focus on terrorism and extremism. Similarly, the report noted that right-wing leaning and religious publications have the greater percentage of articles demonstrating a bias against Muslim belief or behaviour, or which generalise or misrepresent Muslim belief or behaviour.

The report noted that almost one in 10 articles misrepresent Muslims and/or Islam, with the majority of misrepresentation coming via news reporting (82%). Some 21% of all articles assessed were categorised as ‘Antagonistic’ while only 3% were categorised as ‘Supportive’.

“This report by the CfMM shows how much we as journalists must question ourselves and the work we are producing in relation to reporting of Muslims and Islam,” said Alison Philips, editor-in-chief of the Mirror.

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
UK Islamic banks set to receive a boost as Bank of England opens alternative liquidity facility

The UK’s Islamic banks are set to receive a welcomed boost as the Bank of England opened its Alternative Liquidity Facility this week and accepted deposits from participating banks for the first time.

 

LONDON: The much-awaited Alternative Liquidity Facility (ALF) is structured as a wakalah or fund-based facility and will enable participating banks to deposit funds. Participants’ deposits are backed by a fund of high-quality Sharia compliant securities (sukuk). The return from these instruments (minus hedging and operating costs) will be paid to depositors in lieu of interest.

The Bank of England (BoE), the country’s central bank, said that the fund purchased sukuk issued by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in the first instance. The IsDB is a Sharia-compliant multilateral development bank and carries a triple AAA credit rating.

“This [the ALF opening] is a significant and positive advancement that further underlines UK government policy and support for Sharia compliant banking and financial services,” said Stella Cox, managing director of DDCAP Group.

Levelling the playing field

Like conventional banks, Islamic banks are subject to strict regulatory requirements. This includes holding a buffer of high-quality liquid assets (HQLA) to meet obligations as they fall due. Conventional banks are able to hold deposits at the central bank to help meet their buffer requirements but Islamic banks have been unable to do so before, because deposits were interest bearing.

As a result, British Islamic banks have faced challenges in managing their liquidity because the BoE’s existing facility is interest-based and there were no Sharia compliant liquidity facilities. Similarly, Islamic banks were also unable to invest in Gilts (UK government bonds) or interesting-bearing reserves accounts at the central bank.

At the same time, Islamic lenders had to fund their activities or products in expensive or inefficient ways, like holding large amounts of non-interest bearing cash or limiting their short-term deposits.

“There has been a shortage of UK-based liquidity management tools in British pound sterling (GBP) denomination,” said Omar Shaikh, a member of the UK Islamic Finance Council’s (UKIFC) advisory board. “To date efforts have been facilitated through interbank deposits, but normally this is the function of a central bank. Such facilities allow banks to manage their capital requirements and get some minimal return (in the current interest rate environment) on their liquidity.”

In a speech last year, Andrew Hauser, Executive Director for Markets at the BoE, highlighted that the ALF was an important step in providing a level playing field, and enabling greater flexibility in meeting regulatory requirements under Basel III prudential rules.

Good things come to those who wait

Last December, the BoE said that it was preparing to launch the ALF and planned to open it during the first quarter of this year.

The ALF has been in the pipeline for a while. In 2015, the central bank conducted a feasibility study of establishing a standalone non-interest-based facility. It followed up in 2016, with a public consultation, and then in 2017, when it sought to fine tune its approach.

“It has been a long time in development, there were challenges to be resolved to enable its implementation, but the BoE has been unwavering in its commitment to deliver the ALF throughout that extended period and it has achieved an industry first in becoming the first Western central bank to create such a facility,” said Cox.

Shaikh said that the fact the BoE has done this is beneficial to UK Islamic banks as they have an additional tool through which they can manage liquidity more effectively.

“It also demonstrates the UK's ongoing commitment to the Islamic banking sector,” he said. “This particular tool was promised some time ago and it has eventually come through, which is welcomed.”

The opening of the ALF follows the UK’s second sovereign sukuk which took place earlier this year. HM Treasury sold a five-year £500 million ($663 m) sukuk in March. The UK sold its maiden sovereign sukuk in 2014, which consisted of a £200 million ($265 m) issuance.

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
Dubai’s fashion startups eye global industry

Pent-up demand is driving a fashion industry rebound and new designers hope to capitalise on the trend with small scale collections that meet consumer needs and avoid waste.

 

In 2020, the fashion industry saw a wipe-out of its profits by 93%. A year later, and with the pandemic still going, some of the world’s largest fashion companies are showing strong signs of recovery.

H&M Group’s second-quarter gross profit increased by 89% compared with last year, while Gap Inc. reported a gross margin of 42.1% for the quarter, representing the highest third quarter rate in over ten years.

Pent-up demand, the acceleration of digitization and easier access to capital are fueling the recovery and providing start-up opportunities for young designers. In the United Arab Emirates, the in5 Fashion Lab helps aspiring entrepreneurs weave together a fashion business by providing essential resources. 

Located at the Dubai Design District, the lab is the latest facility added to the in5 design innovation centre, whose start-ups have raised $126 million (AED 465 million) in funding since 2013.

Design consultancy Aara Inc has been running the fashion lab since the beginning of this year. “People who are looking for grass roots level help and designers who don't have a very large budget to set up their collections come to us,” Aara Inc’s CEO Manoshi Kamdar told Salaam Gateway. 

She said many designers lack technical education or formal design experience: “They have ideas, and that’s where we can help them. We’re dying to show them the way and see some of those incubated businesses launch and maybe even make it to Fashion Week.”

The organisation’s services include apparel and textile designing, sampling, grading, production and business development. The initial 30-minute business consultation is free while additional services are subsidised for in5-members.

“Despite the pandemic, people have neither lost their appetite to buy nor to create,” Kamdar said. “They just don't do it at the same scale as they used to before.” 

Kamdar explained that young designers aim for minimal collections of less than 50 pieces, which the lab’s small-scale manufacturing with low minimum order quantities of up to 1,000 units can accommodate.

Young designers avoiding excess manufacturing saves capital and resources and highlights two of the fashion industry’s most prominent issues — overproduction and waste.

“40% of garments are sold at markdown,” said Anita Balchandani, head of McKinsey's EMEA Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group, citing overproduction or misjudging consumer demand as the reason. 

Balchandani also noted that less than 1% of used products are recycled back into the industry’s value chain. Technical innovations such as predictive virtual sizing and personalised clothing are a creative way to tackle these problems, she said.

With fashion being a significant part of the creative economy, the in5 Fashion Lab initiative aligns with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s announced plans to transform the city into a global hub for the creative industries. The new strategy aims to increase the sector’s GDP contribution to 5% of Dubai’s economy by 2025. 

In addition, it seeks to boost the number of creative companies based in Dubai from 8,300 to 15,000 within the next five years and more than double the number of creators based in the city, from 70,000 to 140,000.

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

 

Islamic Finance
Russia’s largest lender sees bigger role for Islamic finance as it rolls out first halal ETF

Russia’s largest lender sees a bigger role for Islamic finance in its 2022 strategy after launching the country’s first ever halal exchange traded fund (ETF) last month in a bid to fill the gap for Islamic financial products.

 

State-owned Sberbank via Sber Asset Management rolled out Russia’s first ever Sharia compliant ETF called Halal Investments towards the end of November.

“The ETF is based on the MOEX Shariah Total Return Index designed by Moscow Exchange (MOEX) together with Sberbank,” said Behnam Gurbanzada, chief Islamic finance officer at Sberinvest Middle East. “The index is composed of the 15 most heavily traded stocks of Russian companies on MOEX. Our main idea was to create a Sharia compliant ETF for the local market.”

The passively managed ETF is available for both Russian and international clients, said Gurbanzada, adding that investors can purchase even one share in the Halal Investments ETF.

“The recommended investment term is three years,” he said. “The liquidity of the products is high. Investments in the assets are denominated in roubles. Next year the ETF will be also be available in US dollars.”

He highlighted that the ETF will be screened monthly and audited quarterly by the Sharia Supervisory Board, adding that non-halal funds will go to charity.

“We observe a demand for Sharia compliant products in the market,” Gurbanzada said. “Furthermore, clients are focusing more and more on investment products rather than on deposits. This fund is primarily designed for people seeking to invest and adhere to Sharia. The ETF’s financial attractiveness is not inferior to other conventional investment instruments.”

Sber’s halal ETF comes shortly after the introduction of two new Islamic indices that it helped to create with MOEX.

In October, the bourse launched the MOEX Shariah Index and MOEX Shariah Total Return Index. The indices enable investors to invest in halal instruments.

Gurbanzada said there were administrative and educational challenges in developing their new ETF.

“It was a completely new product for the Russian market and for Sber as well,” he said. “Our team was very excited to learn about ethical requirements for investment products. Based on the experience achieved during the work we found out some new investment ideas applicable to Islamic financing.”

As part of new investment ideas, Sber’s Islamic finance team is working in two areas. The first is the adoption of existing products to Sharia required standards. The second is structuring new products.

“At the present time we are focused on corporate financing,” he said. “Bank accounts for corporate clients, financing, investment products for individuals, operational leasing etc.”

Underserved market

Russia’s Muslim population ranges between 10% to 15% of the country’s 144 million, according to various estimates.

One Moscow-based banking analyst, who asked for anonymity, said local experts in Islamic finance point out the lack of information about the genuineness of Sharia compliance in the fund.

“I doubt that the investor community in Russia cares much about Islamic instruments,” he said. “Whether this ETF will be of interest to non-Russian residents, I’m not too sure.”

But a practitioner familiar with the Russian Islamic finance market disagreed, saying it was a positive development.

“This ETF is positive because Muslim consumers or those seeking Sharia compliant investments in Russia have little to no choice,” he said.

Despite a sizeable Muslim population, and a gap for Islamic financial products, there are few players in the market. Market participants point to some of the legal and regulatory challenges.

“There is still no law on Islamic finance and subsequently the tax treatment, and in particular VAT [valued added tax], makes Sharia-compliant products uncompetitive,” said the practitioner, who also requested anonymity.

Sber Islamic finance strategy

Sberbank’s Islamic finance efforts will be underpinned by Sberinvest Middle East, Sber’s subsidiary in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).

The subsidiary has been operational since June 2021, when it received its final authorization from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of ADGM, noted Gurbanzada.

Sber’s foray into the Middle East follows a lengthy application process. In October 2020, Salaam Gateway reported that the Russian lender was working on the process.

In September 2020, the state-owned lender signed a strategic agreement with Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign investment company. The agreement covered cooperation in several areas including Islamic finance.

“Our strategy is to create accesses for all clients,” said Gurbanzada. “To establish a secured bridge between Russia and the MENA. The bridge which will be based on partnerships.”

To meet their clients’ needs and demands, Sber’s Islamic finance team are working on Sharia-compliant asset management products.

“We are considering several investment products for local and international clients together with Sberinvest Middle East,” he said.

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
Hejaz sees great potential in Australian Islamic financial services

Study shows nearly four in 10 Australian Muslims are stashing cash at home due to the lack of Islamic financial products in the market.

 

A survey has highlighted that 36% of Australian Muslims are choosing to retain “significant” cash savings at home because of the lack of Sharia-compliant finance products available in the market. 

The study, which was commissioned by Hejaz Financial Services, a Melbourne-based, non-bank financial institution that offers Sharia-compliant services, consisted of digital questionnaires of 400 Muslim Australian in October 2021 surveying their financial habits and attitudes. The findings highlight the growing demand for Islamic financial products in Australia.

“This study highlights that whilst Muslim Australians are becoming more aware about the principles of Islamic finance, they still lack access to products and information,” said Muzzammil Dhedhy, chief operating officer at Hejaz.

“Traditionally, Australian Muslims were migrants, however the second or third generation are highly educated, speak English and have good jobs and income,” he explained. “They are demanding products like wealth management and property financing that are aligned with their faith and values.”

Filling the gap

To fill this growing demand, Dhedhy said that Hejaz is working on new products.

“We working on various instruments including three new Islamic exchange traded funds (ETFs).” Hejaz plans to launch the Hejaz Managed Funds which are presently unlisted and are in discussions with trustees and fund administrators to establish the new listed ETFs. 

These ETFs will consist of a global equities fund that will track the MSCI Islamic Index. The second ETF will be a property/REIT (real estate investment trust) and the third ETF will consist of an income/credit/mortgage fund. 

“These ETFs will be listed on the Australian stock exchange and be available to both domestic and international investors,” said Dhedy. Hejaz plans to launch these new ETFs by the end of the first quarter of 2022 or in early in the second quarter.

Beyond ETFs, Hejaz is also working on other ancillary services including a robo-advisory.

Robo advisors are digital platforms that provide automated and algorithm based financial investments with little to no human supervision. They do this by collecting information from users about their financial circumstances and investment goals. 

Takaful (Islamic insurance) is also on the cards, but that will require its own legal process. “Takaful services require an insurance licence, this is a medium-to-longer term goal for us,” he said.

Hejaz continues to focus on getting its banking licence application. In June, Salaam Gateway reported that Hejaz initiated discussions with the regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, as well as the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. 

Dhedhy said that talks are progressing and hopes that Hejaz will receive its restricted licence within the next 12 months. After a two-year period, they hope to obtain a full banking licence and become a fully-fledged Islamic bank within three years.

“We have an excellent relationship with Australian financial regulators, who are willing to support us in developing more customer-centric products,” he said. 

Others in the race

Muslims make around 2.6% of Australia’s 26 million population, according to the 2016 census. This is expected to increase to nearly 3% during the next census which took place this year.

Despite the growing Muslim population, and demand for Sharia compliant products, there are no fully-fledged Islamic banks in Australia. However, that is set to change. Islamic Bank Australia (IBA), is hoping to become the country’s first Shariah-compliant retail lender and is in the process of obtaining its own banking licence.

Among the other more established Islamic players are Crescent Wealth and MCCA as well as non-bank financial institutions like Amanah and Islamic Co-operative Finance Australia.

Adding to this, conventional banks like National Australia Bank (NAB) offer some Sharia compliant services. Most recently, NAB launched the country’s first Sharia structure for construction financing earlier this year.

One Australian banking practitioner said that the current Islamic product offerings are adequate given the poor uptake.  “If a major Aussie bank offered a product with the same service offering then that would improve uptake dramatically, '' he said. “Most Islamic players are tiny.”

Dhedhy said that Muslims are frustrated with current limited offerings. 

“A lot of educated and wealthier Muslims are looking for good quality products,” he said. “Among products we want to create are specific savings products for things like home deposits, weddings, college funds, and hajj.”

He also added that Islamic products don't have to be expensive when compared to the conventional. 

“Muslim customers should only expect to pay a few basis points more than conventional products, otherwise they’re not competitive enough,” he said. “Moreover, 5% of our customer base are non-Muslim, because we are offering competitive products that align with the moral values of modern Australians.”

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Halal Industry
Q&A: Indonesia Sharia Economic Festival (ISEF) 2021 and what to expect in 2022

Salaam Gateway talked with M. Anwar Bashori, Head of the Department of Islamic Economics & Finance, Bank Indonesia, about ISEF 2021, and what to expect for next year’s event as Indonesia positions itself as a future hub of the Islamic economy.

 

Key figures from ISEF 2021:

- Total transactions reached Rupiah 25.8 trillion ($1.82 billion), a significant increase from the previous year's Rp 5.03 trillion ($354.22 million).

- Some 240 halal certificates were issued, particularly for PPH Assistance Certification, Self-Declare Halal Certification, and Fashion Designer Competency Certification.

- ISEF attracted 970 exhibitors and MSME actors. A total of 4,451 people participated in six types of competitions.

- Online access to ISEF 2021 platform reached 119 countries with 293,401 visitors since April 2021.

 

Salaam Gateway (SG): What was ISEF’s main theme this year?

M. Anwar Bashori: ‘Magnifying halal industries through food and the fashion market for economic recovery’ was the main theme. It is aligned with current Islamic economy conditions in Indonesia as we prepare to be the centre of the Sharia economy. This theme represents the great potential of the two leading sectors in Indonesia’s Sharia economy in accelerating the economic recovery.

SG: What advantages did the hybrid nature of ISEF 2021 - being in-person and virtual – bring to the overall event this year?

Bashori: Alhamdulillah, ISEF this year was a blessing, and the COVID-19 pandemic did not dampen spirits. Although there were many limitations, there were blessings through the increased use of digital technology. The hybrid implementation provides a new spirit for the participants, especially for businesses in promoting their products. The hybrid model made it easier for businesses to conduct business meetings with potential investors. The implementation of a hybrid ISEF successfully reached business agreements and business transactions of Rp 25.8 trillion ($1.82 bn).

SG: Let’s talk about the number of transactions carried out at ISEF, which were significantly up on 2020. While the pandemic no doubt had a role in this, what do you attribute such a jump in transactions to?

Bashori: The increase was driven by three key strategies - synergy, innovation, and digitalization. The synergy with Financial Services Authority (OJK) was strengthened through Sharia financing distributions. As a result, October has been named as the Month of Sharia Financing. Sharia businesses, especially those who are members of cooperatives, are being assisted through technical guidance for fund management of Sharia Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Cooperatives by LPDB – KUMKM (Revolving Fund Management Agency – Cooperative MSME).

SG: What impact did the isef.co.id platform have?

Bashori: The platform was one of the reasons behind the increase in online transactions for halal products at ISEF this year. Another thing that contributed is the use of QR Indonesia Standard (QRIS) which continues to grow rapidly to support national economic activities. One of the advantages of QRIS is the availability of the no face-to-face feature, which allows customers to make remote payments for products purchased from merchants. In addition, QRIS can also be used to make donations or ZISWAF payments. (The platform is open until the end of 2021).

SG: What were the key highlights of ISEF 2021?

Bashori: Outcomes that can accelerate the national economic recovery. Firstly, increasing Sharia financing through facilitating linkages of Islamic financial institutions with businesses in the halal industry, especially halal food and sustainable modest fashion. Secondly, strengthening competence for both business owners in the halal industry and Islamic financial institutions. Thirdly, scaling up halal business transactions through a series of exhibition and business linkage among domestic and global Sharia businesses. Finally, improving Islamic social funds management through a series of facilitation activities to increase literacy, engagement, call to action, collections and distributions of zakat, infaq, sadaqah and waqf (ZISWAF).

SG: What was on ISEF’s agenda?

Bashori: There were 194 agendas, ranging from national and international forums, to talk shows and workshops, tabligh akbar (large-scale Qur'anic recitation), business meetings, business coaching, business linkage, various investment deals, entrepreneurship training, Halal Indonesia showcases and exhibitions of halal products, Muslim fashion parades as well as various competitions and cultural performances.

SG: How many Indonesian modest fashion designers were involved in ISEF?

Bashori: ISEF collaborated with 420 fashion designers and presented fashion parades and presentations that emphasized the principle of thayyiban (goodness) in their creative production with a total of 797 looks of clothing and accessories. In the future, Indonesia could become a major player for this sector. Bank Indonesia has committed itself to developing the sustainable and ethical fashion concept as one of the priority sectors in empowering the national Sharia economy. One of the strategies is strengthening the halal value chain to develop the ecosystem of Indonesia's Muslim fashion. This effort involves fashion business entities such as the textile industry and fashion designers to form an inclusive business chain. Bank Indonesia is conducting mapping, identification, model building and development to make a more integrated upstream and downstream model.

SG: ISEF also took place around Indonesia. Going forward, will ISEF expand such activities beyond Jakarta?

Bashori: To reach more people outside Jakarta, every year we conduct Road to ISEF activities which consist of the Sharia Economic Festival (Fesyar) in Sumatra, Java, and the Eastern region, with hosts changing every year, except for Java, as Surabaya will always be the host for that region. There are also Road to Fesyar activities held in each province. Going forward, Bank Indonesia hopes that ISEF will not only become a trendsetter for the national Sharia economy’s development, but also become a global event and a joint-platform for domestic and international stakeholders.

SG: What can we expect from ISEF 2022? Will you focus on other parts of the Islamic economy, as you did this year with modest fashion?

Bashori: The Sharia economy is certainly not just about halal food, Muslim fashion, Islamic banks, Sharia capital markets, and other Islamic social financial institutions. It is more than that, as Islamic economics covers all aspects of the economy. In the future, we will definitely see other Islamic economy sectors brought to ISEF, while still maintaining halal food and modest fashion as our priority.

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
Indonesia seeks help from Saudi Arabia to increase its Quran production 

Jakarta – Indonesia is exploring cooperation in Quran printing management with Saudi Arabia to narrow the deficit of Quran supply in the country.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas told Salaam Gateway that last week he met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz and General Secretary of the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran, Talal bin Razin Al-Rehil in Medina to ask for assistance.

“We asked the Saudi government to send a technical team to Indonesia to help us upgrade our Quran printing press. So in terms of the management, the quality of the building, machinery and materials, we can replicate them,” Qoumas said. 

He added, the Saudi representatives in principle agreed to the request, and in return, Saudi Arabia wants to establish an Islamic center in Indonesia. 

Located in Ciawi, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia’s Quran printing press was established in 2016 with a production capacity of 300,000 copies per year. Apart from this facility, there are other 288 private publishers, but only five percent have a printing press. 

A study by the Ministry of Religious Affairs showed that Indonesia produced only 1.7 million copies of the Quran from 2016 until 2020. This supply doesn’t cover the annual Quran demand from Indonesian Muslims, which is around 6.2 million copies per year. 

On the other hand, the 250,000 square meter King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran in Medina printed around 18 million copies per year. The production uses sensors that can detect printing defects and the copies also can last for around 100 years, Qoumas said.

“With their help, we hope to increase our production quality and capacity to 10 million copies per year,” he added.

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

Halal Industry
Greek court upsets Muslim community by banning no-stun slaughter

A recent verdict by Greece’s top court on the ritual slaughter of animals has raised significant concerns for the country’s Muslim and Jewish communities, potentially impeding growth in Greek halal exports.

 

The ruling by the Council of State effectively withdraws a permit that has allowed the slaughter of animals without stunning them first as is usually required to produce halal and kosher meat. 

In a case brought by an animal welfare organisation, the court ruled on October 26 that a joint ministerial decision of 2017 allowing the ritual slaughter of animals breached a 2009 European Union (EU) regulation on ‘the protection of animals at the time of killing.’

While halal standards can allow stunning, Anna Stamou, spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Greece, told Salaam Gateway that her organisation is preparing a statement with other European partners, condemning the court’s decision. The ritual slaughtering of animals “does not fit the pace of production that the meat industry wants,” she said.

Dr Tzichat Chalil, the Mufti of Komotini, an area in north-eastern Greece with a significant Muslim minority, told Salaam Gateway that as long as the animal is not irreversibly damaged at the moment of slaughter and its blood is allowed to drain, the meat will still be halal even if stunned before. This will not be an issue for the slaughtering of most small animals such as poultry, sheep and rabbits. “Based on the current rules in Greece, the already applied electrical anaesthesia in birds and lambs is permissible for halal. The only animals where anaesthesia is not allowed (as it causes irreparable damage to the animal) are in cattle,” Mohamed Abdeltawab, certification and quality manager of Halal Assurance and Quality Greece (HAQ Greece) told Salaam Gateway.

Because cattle meat production in Greece is low, the impact of the court ruling may be small. Yet resolving the issue and allowing the production of halal meat from cattle could benefit the industry in Greece, Tzemali Karahasan, CEO of Karahasan, producers of halal cured and prepared meat products in north-eastern Greece, told Salaam Gateway. There is a significant halal market in Greece with potential for growth, he added, with an estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the country of 10.7 million people. 

But he noted that the production of halal beef in Greece does not meet the demand his company is seeing and thus 20% of its halal beef requirements are imported from Poland and then further processed. The company exports around 10 tonnes of products to Germany annually and demand is rising, Karahasan said. 

Abdeltawab of HAQ Greece, echoed this sentiment noting that he expects “explosive increase” of Greek halal meat exports to the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets.

The court ruling is particularly damaging for the Jewish community in Greece, as the requirements for making Kosher meat in the country are stricter and do not allow for the stunning of animals before slaughtering, with no exception. Greece’s Jewish population is small, however – just 5,000 according to the European Jewish Congress. In a statement, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) said the decision “violates the right of Greek Jews to freely exercise their religious duties and to observe the traditions of the Jewish religion.” However, the president of KIS, Victor Isaak Eliezer, told the Jerusalem Post that he hopes Greek authorities will take measures to “ensure the continuation of the observance of the religious obligations of Greek Jews.”

The Greek authorities’ goodwill may be the main way of resolving the issue as a legal challenge in Europe would be very uncertain. In December 2020 the EU Court of Justice upheld Belgium’s ban on slaughtering animals without first stunning them. This decision will loom over any court challenge on European level. Even though the 2020 ruling underlined that ritual slaughter was protected by the 2009 regulation, it allowed Belgium to effectively ban one element of such meat processing – killing without stunning. 

 

© SalaamGateway.com 2021 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Halal Industry
Bangladesh pushing halal food exports by expanding certification and government market research

Bangladesh’s halal food sector has struggled to meet quality assurance standards, hindering export potential.

 

DHAKA: The Bangladesh food industry is increasing its efforts to export halal foods to Muslim majority population countries. A senior government delegation is planning to visit Turkey and Indonesia this year to gather facts and advice on improving Bangladeshi halal food sales in these countries.

The additional secretary (export) for the commerce ministry, Mohammed Hafizur Rahman will lead a four-member delegation: “We will explore and learn from them about exports and the certification process of halal foods, cosmetics and even fashion,” he said, noting that these states were “ahead of many other Muslim countries in terms of production, certification and exports.”

According to a report from the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh exported halal products, including food and cosmetics, worth about $1 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year (July-June), 70% of which went to Middle East. Exporters are able to build capacity by also selling into a domestic halal goods market worth $107 billion, the second largest after Indonesia worldwide, according to the report.

Bangladeshi halal certified food is overwhelmingly red meat, poultry and processed poultry food products, said the chamber. Producers seeking to export such products have been struggling with limited certification capacity in Bangladesh, but this is now expanding. Until this year, the only body able to issue halal certificates was the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, a state-run body, which has been issuing certificates since 2007. However, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI), another government body, has secured authority to also issue halal certificates for food products. Meanwhile, the Islamic Foundation has submitted a draft Halal Certificate Policy 2021, which it says will enable it to better approve certification for large scale exports.

While this expansion of certification capacity is welcome, Enamul Hafiz Latifee, joint secretary (research fellow) at the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), who until recently promoted the country’s food sector with the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned that the new system may be administratively complex. The Islamic Foundation says it will work with the BSTI as well as the government’s Department of Livestock Services and Department of Agricultural Extension to conduct laboratory testing and certification. “This may create bureaucratic complexities,” said Latifee.

Moreover, the government has yet to secure formal affiliation for its certification system with international halal certification agencies, he said, noting that Indian halal certification is affiliated with Malaysia’s Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia halal agency (JAKIM). “The Bangladesh government should explore affiliation as well,” said Latifee.

Global Muslim spend on food (halal and non-halal) was estimated at $1.17 trillion in DinarStandard’s State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2020/21, forecast to reach $1.38 trillion by 2024. “If Bangladesh can tap even 1%, this will be huge,” said Latifee.

But to achieve this, Bangladesh will especially need to demonstrate high standards in red meat production and logistics standards, including demonstrating its cattle are disease-free, and that whole pre-, during- and post-slaughter procedures are strictly monitored and controlled. The country does not export halal sheepmeat.

At present, only Dhaka-based Bengal Meat, Bangladesh’s largest meat manufacturer, exports beef cuts used to make curry dishes in Kuwait through compliance with that Gulf country’s strict halal standards. “The Bengal Meat factory was set up in accordance with Islamic law, hygiene rules and international compliance standards. We had to bring delegates from Dubai and Kuwait for checking the compliance in our factory,” said Ahmad Asif, Bengal Meat’s CEO, who noted that the company had yet to start exporting to the UAE.

Other companies have struggled to meet Gulf countries halal standards, he told Salaam Gateway, with “compliance and hygiene issues” restricting overseas sales, although the Bangladesh government has been lobbying importing countries, requesting that they buy more Bangladesh meat.

A Bangladesh Halal Meat Importers’ Association official who requested anonymity said “it will take time” to build confidence in Bangladesh compliance with international standards over hygiene and halal procedures. Also, Bangladeshi meat can be expensive – sometimes priced at 20% to 40% more than many other Muslim countries. For instance, India sells buffalo meat at around $3.36 per kilogramme, where as Bangladeshi meat sells for $6.41/kg. Latifee said that the smaller size of Bangladeshi buffalo production prevents it from securing economies of scale regarding feed purchases.

This has opened an import market within Bangladesh for sales of cheaper buffalo bovine meat from India, China, Myanmar and Nepal – a challenge for local producers.

Nonetheless, Department of Livestock Services data cited by the Dhaka Tribune, a local daily newspaper, stated that Bangladesh produces 7.6 million tonnes of bovine and sheepmeat, compared to its annual domestic meat consumption of 7.3 million tonnes

“As we have a surplus of meat, Bangladesh has infinite opportunities for exporting to the global halal meat industry,” Asif told the Dhaka Tribune.

Certainly, the export production potential is large, with 522,000 commercial farms employing 15 million Bangladeshis, Asif told Salaam Gateway.

Halal seafood exports also have potential. “Bangladesh currently exports frozen shrimps to the European Union and USA, and fresh ones to Middle East countries, such as Saudi Arabia [and the UAE’s] Dubai, where a large Bangladeshi community lives,” said an official at the Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters’ Association (BFFEA). The country also exports some small fish, such as Indian carplet, to the Middle East.

The official added that there was huge potential for exporting halal bovine omasum (the third stomach compartment in ruminants) and cow liver to the Middle East, although he said the market was being undermined by black market exporters based in Bangladesh.

As for Middle East halal fish exports to Bangladesh, these are limited to oily fish such as sardines and a handful of other species, such as hilsa from Oman, said the BFFEA official.

Bangladesh mainly imports poultry and processed meats from Turkey, Malaysia and Brazil, said the Bangladesh Halal Meat Importers’ Association official.

But Bangladesh exports frozen halal snacks, such as parathas, singaras and samosas to Europe, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Such successes, said Latifee, could help Bangladesh improve its halal exporting image. He said exporters might also focus on Indonesia and Malaysia initially, being easier markets to tap than those in the Middle East.

 

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