Tag Archives: White Australia Policy

Halal Mythology

I’m writing this because I’m sick to death of the misinformation about Halal (also spelt Halaal) certification in Australia. There are people who are militating against Halal certification using incorrect information and some are intentionally using misinformation. Some of those sources are the ugly fascist and neo-nazi groups (see: Neo-nazis, white-supremacists, islamophobic groups active in Australia via the Internet.) who have no scruples in creating fear about race or culture.

Halal simply means what is permisible by Islamic law.

Slaughter of animals for meat is one use of Halal certification. The slaughter itself is done the same as Jewish Kosher slaughter, if you want a brief description of how it is done go here  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/08/what-does-halal-method-animal-slaughter-involve. The cost is in certifying that the slaughter is done properly, including that it must not cause undue harm to the animal.

Other forms of Halal certification are checking to make sure that forbidden food substances, like pork or alcohol, are not present in packaged foods or beverages.

The claims are that Islam uses Halal certification to make vast sums of money, which in turn is syphoned off to foreign interests, and at worst to terrorism. Or that within Australia, there are vast sums of money syphoned off into mosques and schools.

The main complaint is that Halal is a tax on none Muslims and therefore unfair.

Halal, like other religious certifications, and including health certifications, would cost money to certify as someone would need to be employed to do that. But the certification process doesn’t rake in vast sums of money. In 2015 the ABC Fact Check interviewed The Byron Bay Cookie Company who said that their Halal certification fee was around $1,500 per annum (www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/2015-04-14/fact-check-does-halal-certification-fund-terrorism/6383238) or 0.003%. The Fleurie Milk Company (who sufferd from a social media campaign against their intention to provide yoghurt to Emirates airlines) had a fee of $1,000 or 2% of the contract.

Nestle responded by saying that their fee was negligible. and further commented that they did not pass this minor cost on to the customer.

In 2015 the certifications done by the Global Halal Centre Pty Ltd said that abattoirs were audited four times a year and cost between $2 – 3,000 per audit, and Halal certification per carton of meat was 25 cents. While Graincorp said that their costs were “pretty minor.”

I think Nestle nailed it when they said that what needed to be taken into account was the context. The companies are making it clear that the cost is not an impediment nor does it hinder them in any way. The companies are saying that the fee is so minor it is not a risk to profit (which is a major indicator of how trivial it is). What the companies are also saying is that the Halal certification cost is outweighed by the income from being able to guarantee Halal to a growing and lucrative market. In 2012 the global Halal certified food industry was worth between $US600 billion and $US2.1 trillion. As a value that is a market worth sharing in, and clearly outweighs the minor cost of certification. in that sense, Halal is a positive way forward for companies wanting to enter that particular market.

Context will also give an account of other forms of religious certification. This is primarily Kosher certification for the Jewish community. In 2014 there were negotiations to include Hindu certification in the US market, and there is in Australia a Christian Certification Authority trying to make headway in the market. The Sikh community have some restrictions, they are required to forego halal food, so for the Sikh community halal labels are helpful by default.

In regard to the fee received by Muslim certification agencies, according to the ABC Factcheck (referenced above), none of the money could be traced to terrorism or to unscrupulous agencies. Besides which, all money transfer is closely monitored by Federal Govt. agencies through the regulatory processes in place. All Banks have to have a series of checks in place to validate your identity and the channels you are using. Of course, this doesn’t prevent money laundering for those intent on achieving it. It would be difficult to monitor all foreign channels that provide a publicly legitimate front for laundering. That is the role of Internationally cooperative agency to achieve through investigation.

It is also important to note that within Australia, peak bodies like the Islamic Council of Victoria, Halal Australia, Muslims Australia (AFIC) are openly opposed to terrorism and any form of association with prohibited agencies and groups.

As for money going to Mosques and schools, ABC Factcheck reported that some does, but this is legitimate (as it is for Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs). In 2014 the AFIC contributed $150, 000 to schools, youth programs, lectures and more. The ICCV funds schools and youth programs. The Supreme Islamic Council for Halal Meat Australia (SICHMA) supoprts Islamic centres, mosques, youth education and mentoring programs. Those monies are, like all monies gained by public and charitible entities, regulated and audited.

It should be noted that Islamic schools and colleges are governed by the same regulations as are Christian and other faith schools, which means they are regulated and audited, and they are required to comply with Australian standards. Otherwise, no operating licence would be granted, or continued.

The evidence doesn’t support conspiracy, money laundering, terrorist funding, or any ilegal activity. From a commercial perspective, Halal is profitable and far outweighs any certification costs. From a religious point of view it is similar to Kosher slaughter, it helps other religious groups identify Halal, and it is a positive for those practice Islam. From a community point of view there is so much legislation around finance, money transfer, banking, the licencing of schools, and employment, that our confidence is well founded that there is nothing untoward.

My own conclusion is that opposition comes from two sources. One is a large percentage of the Australian population who just don’t know what Halal is all about. The other is an unconnected variety of vocal opposition politically, religiously, and culturally anti-Islamic. These include neo-nazis, white supremicists, extreme right-wing political groups, anti-imigration lobbyists, and anti-refugee groups, and extremist or fundamentalist Christian groups among many voices (an unholy alliance!). This latter group are adept at manipulating the first group. Fear is a trade in stock for anti-Islamic groups. And this in a country that birthed the protectionist “White Australia Policy” which I believe is, unfortunately,  still active in our hearts and minds. We need to deal with this latent policy, and its antecedents by letting go the past and living into a different future.

The panic being created about Halal is really a wake up call to us all that now is the time to build bridges towards a connected yet diverse and creative community, rather than aiming for mediocrity and division.

I want to live in a place where difference is celebrated not punished, and where we can live into an Australia that rises to acknowledgement and acceptance, embracing and compassionate, and not just for Muslims either, for all.

Next time someone you know criticises Halal, let them know the truth.

https:pvcann.com

 

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Seeking Asylum (Part 4) How Many Come?

The way the Australian media report on refugees or asylum seekers is either by overstatement or the opposite, silence. But then you would only have to look at who owns the media to work that out, as Australian media is (with the exception of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and SBS) privately owned with bias towards the ownership (which is to be expected). However, you would think that journalism might actually be journalism and question government and anti-refugee rhetoric. There is precious little reporting in the mainstream commercial media that challenges the lies and myths surrounding those seeking asylum.

According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (2012 data) “23,000 persons per day leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere – more than the total number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in a year.” http://www.asrc.org.au

According to the UNHCR: 

As at December 2012 there were 45.2 million people displaced. of which there were 15.4 million refugees, of which there were 10.5 million (with 4.9 million Palestinians under UNRWA mandate) refugees in 2012. Of that number 1,638,500 were being hosted by Pakistan, 868,200 hosted by Iran, 589,700 hosted by Germany, 564,900 hosted by Kenya, 476,500 hosted by Syria, and 376,400 by Ethiopia.

Developing countries  hosted over 80% of the world’s refugees (compared to 70% ten years ago).

Pakistan hosted the highest number of refugees compared to its national economy – 552 refugees per 1 USD of GDP. Ethiopia was second (303), Kenya third (301), South Sudan fourth (209). Germany was the first developed country on the ranking placing it 31st, with 15 refugees per 1 USD of GDP. Australia hosted 0.7 refugees per USD of GDP ranking it 77th in the world!

Australia’s World Ranking by:

  • Total number of asylum claims 20th.
  • Compared to our population size (per capita) 29th
  • By hosting 77th
  • Compared to our national wealth GDP (PPP) per capita 52nd

Australia’s Ranking of 44 Industrialised Countries (2012):

  • by total number of asylum claims 12th
  • compared to our population size (per capita) 16th
  • compared to our national wealth GDP (PPP) per capita 14th

Note: PPP is purchasing power parity.

By asylum applications received in 2012:

  • Asylum applications received in 2012 out of a global total of 2 million applications globally was 29,610. Australia’s share – 1.47%; Australia’s ranking 20th.
  • Asylum seekers recognised as refugees in 2012 globally 1.3 million. Australia’s recognition 8,367. Australia’s share – 0.61%; Australia’s ranking 28th.

For further statistical resource see:

http://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends/2012-GlobalTrends-annex-tables.zip

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/r/stat-int.php

Although New Zealand (pop. 4.3 million; Australia 22.2 million) only takes small numbers of asylum seekers under the quota system (750 per annum – plus/minus 10%) and although in 2011/2012 there were 364 extra claims from others who arrived in New Zealand by various means, only 115 were validated, it is the way they handle it. For a small nation they have a very healthy attitude to reception, processing, and the integration of asylum seekers. It certainly puts Australia’s attitude and policy(s) in a poor light despite population difference.

So, whether we look at our ranking within the industrialised nations, or globally across all nations, or wether we look at per capita (thus in relative context) Australia is woeful at taking in refugees.

A correlative is migration (another sticking point in Australian politics). A recent article at blogs.worldbank.org “Can I get the bill, please? Are immigrants a burden or net contributors to the public purse?” by Jean christophe Dumont and Thomas Liebig asks a number of questions about migration. One significant question is “the current doxa about the fiscal impact of migration is indeed that immigrants contribute less in taxes than they receive in benefits …” It is an expectation an unfounded attitude but not a reality. the converse is also true as the article explores the question as to whether immigrants are a fiscal panacea, and they are not. However, the authors contend that immigrants are neither a burden nor a panacea, but rather that “immigrants have a positive net direct fiscal position in most countries …” in other words, they are not a drain on any society.

The official immigration impact on OECD countries, including Australia is negligible when considered over a period of fifty years of migration study, to the point that the fiscal impact is “close to zero, rarely exceeding 0.5% of GDP …”

The subject of asylum seekers also raises the doxa of negative fiscal impact but that is also not true. In Australia refugees cannot access Centrelink, do not get public housing, rarely are able to get transitional housing, a limited number are able to get the Red Cross Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (which is 89% of the New Start Scheme) for a short period of time. Refugees face higher rates of homelessness than other groups in Australia. Until a visa is granted they cannot access Medicare. They receive less than what it costs to pay rent and buy food let alone pay up-front for medical and dental costs.

There are many other myths surrounding asylum seekers. We need detention centres: well between 1948 – 1992 we successfully resettled 452,000 refugees, all processed directly within the community. There were no detention centres then and we more than coped. We must protect our borders: we do and have always done so, refugees by boat have always been checked and scrutinised no one is at risk in Australia from a boat arrival in spite of the government or media rhetoric (manufactured moral panic?)!

So, we are not being overrun, or flooded by refugees. We are not at risk. We take the least of many of our fellow industrialised nations. We are way behind developing nations in accepting refugees. They are neither a major drain on our economy nor a panacea (using the immigration ideal which is not radically different) as they have limited access to welfare or assistance.

So I’m wondering what the problem is?

I personally believe that it has a lot to do with the development of the nation and our beliefs about the ‘other’ the foreigner. With the reaction to the Chinese on the Victorian goldfields (1851), the fear of a Russian invasion (1885), the framing of the constitution to deliberately exclude non-whites and restrict non-english speaking peoples (Section 51, sub-sections 26 – 30), the treatment of German people during World War One, the riot in Kalgoorlie in 1934 against Italian migrants, the Imperial attitude to race and culture, all of these and more are contributing factors to an anxiety about the foreigner in Australia today.

I believe that the current fear is, as a direct result of ignorance, a fear of Islamic people, beliefs and culture (White Australia Policy again). Which is not dissimilar to how people reacted to the Chinese and the Germans and Italians in the past.

In addition, it has become popular in political circles to utilise this anxiety for political gain, so that people have become politicised and therefore dehumanised. There is a worrying connection with the insights of Georgio Agamben in his work ‘Homo Sacer’  and earlier, Hannah Arendt’s ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ which demonstrate how easy it is to create scapegoats, and to dehumanise and demonise a race or culture for political gain.

We are not overrun, we are not inundated, we would not be financially burdened in the extreme (especially if we used an integration process rather than a detention process – which is costing us dearly), so it must be (irrational) fear.

Only this past week, the U.N. has reprimanded Australia for reneging on its U.N. treaty obligations in regard to 46 refugees. We have descended from a nation of foreigners (excepting the indigenous Aboriginal peoples),risen to a nation that welcomed some foreigners after both World Wars, and then plummeted to a nation that resists foreigners. We have lost sight of our responsibilities as a nation on the world scene. We have lost our compassion in regard to asylum seekers. We are surely hypocritical to be sitting on the U.N. Security Council, sitting making decisions that affect other nations, sitting in judgement of other nations as we seek to reinforce U.N. treaties and conventions!

It is entirely possible to change this. Education about asylum seekers at all levels from school to parliament would help to restore a positive understanding of their plight and our responsibility to them, and the possibility of  their positive participation in our nation. To deconstruct the myths and distortions would help to re-humanise those who come to our shores by whatever means.

We need a new way forward on asylum seekers and refugees, one that will see them as people with inalienable rights, but also to see them as future Australians.

See:

epress.anu.edu.au/cw/mobile_devices/ch13s05.html  (chapter on the ‘White Australia Policy)

http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org  (reference to fear Russian  ship visiting Sydney)

“In Fear of Security: Australia’s Invasion Anxiety” Dr. Anthony Burke 2001

“U.N. castigates Australia for treatment of 46 refugees” Reuters, Geneva 22.8.2013

http://www.immigration.govt.nz  (refugee fact sheet)

Hannah Arendt ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich  1973

Georgio Agamben ‘Homo Sacer’ Stanford University Press, 1998

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