Christian group takes legal action on halaal labels

Originally published in Pretoria News

A Christian voluntary organisation is taking the government to court over its new regulations allowing for a wide range of food packaging to be religiously certified and to carry religious signs, such as the halaal certification mark, without regulating the labelling.

It is claimed that these regulations exclude certain faiths, such as the Christians, and is thus unconstitutional.

The National Coalition of Christian Groups and Individuals for Practical Equality and Protection of Constitutional Rights (NCCGI) is objecting to the religious labelling, such as the halaal certification mark that signifies that the food can be eaten by Muslims.

This sign appears on a wide range of products, such as meat, drinks, chips, various sweets and biscuits.

The group said it represents various Christian organisations and Christian people in SA, on whose behalf it is launching the court action.

They will ask the Pretoria High Court for a variety of orders, including to declare that the religious certifying of the food, which exclude the Christian faith, is unconstitutional.

The NCCGI will ask that the ministers of Health and Trade and industry be forced to introduce measures that will ensure that when these products carry religious signs on its packaging, similar food products without these signs also be made available to the consumer.

This, however, excludes where the processed food products are exclusive to a particular religious group and originate from their faiths (such as the slaughtering prescriptions in the case of Muslims), where it would, for example, carry the halaal mark.

The NCCGI stated in papers filed at court that Christians do not have any religious signs for placement on foodstuffs and many of the applicant’s members do not favour consumables with religious signs.

The organisation also fears that the consumer will have to foot the bill for these additional markings on packaging. They will ask the court to force the government to introduce measures ensuring that the costs associated by these signs are not directly or indirectly passed on consumers comprising the other religious groups who are excluded on the labelling.

The NCCGI are mainly objecting to the notice in the Government Gazette of March 12 this year, in which the Health Minister gave the go-ahead for these religious signs, without proper regulations in place.

Phillip Groenenstein, of the NCCGI, said in a statement, which forms part of the application, that the religious signs on packaging should be regulated by the government to prevent the discriminatory usage thereof.

He made it clear that this was not an attack on any faith or religion, but stressed that the application, launched by Lombards Attorneys in Pretoria is aimed at ensuring equality between faiths and religions.

He pointed out that these food labels evoke religious emotions based on the religious orientation of the different religious groups in our country.

Groenenstein said a good example was the recent hot cross bun debacle, which carried the halaal mark and caused an outcry among many Christians. Woolworths subsequently announced it would next Easter also offer hot cross buns without the halaal sign.

The South African National Halal Authority (Sanha) has reacted strongly to a court application describing it as short-sighted and “ill-conceived” reports The Voice of the Cape.

8 Comments

  1. South African Christians are such an embarrassment – or at least some of them are. I can only hope that this is some really fringe group.

    And the really infuriating thing is that it is just absurd to claim that this discriminates against Christians. As an Orthodox Christian I would value labeling that told me which foods are fasting foods and which aren’t. Like all Christians until around the fourteenth century, we abstain from animal products during fasting seasons (and on most Wednesdays and Fridays). But mention that to most South Africans and one just gets stares of disbelief. If western Christians have abandoned any consciousness of fasting that is sad enough, but that is their choice, and to then claim that they are being discriminated against because followers of other religions do observe dietary practices is really a bit much!

  2. The approach of this legal action comes across as petty and small-minded. Christians have no “rights” in God’s kingdom, and the early church certainly had none in a the hostile first century AD world.
    However. what does concern me is that retailers pay the Islamic authority for the “privilege” of using the Halaal sign, and a portion of what is paid goes towards the propagation of Islam. That means that consumers are contributing to that through their purchases of goods marked with the Halaal sign. This would be better grounds on which to contest the issue, that retailers and non-Muslim customers are being held to ransom and are being made unwilling contributors to the propagation of Islam. Only in this regard the Halaal issue can be said to infringe my constitutional rights. Otherwise, the Halaal sign doesn’t bother me as far as the consumption of food is concerned.
    Compelling retailers to use the Halaal sign is also part of the commercial colonisation of the country by Islam, of establishing Dar-ul Islam, of bringing countries under submission to Islam. There are more than enough products from Muslim suppliers, both here and in other Islamic countries, for Muslims’ dietary requirements to be met, without forcing the rest of SA to kow-tow to their demands for Halaal products.
    By contrast, Jews have a Kosher section in Pick n Pay where they can buy Kosher foods. They do not impose their dietary requirements on the rest of the populace.

  3. We refer to the court action brought against the government by an organisation claiming to be a coalition of Christian groups who approached the courts asking that it;
    1. Declare the regulations that allow for religious marks of halaal, kosher etc that excludes Christianity as unconstitutional.
    2. If these products carry religious signs on its packaging then similar food products without these signs must also be made available to the consumer.
    3. Asks the government to introduce measures ensuring that costs associated with these signs are not directly or indirectly passed on to consumers of other religious groups who are excluded on the labelling.
    SANHA regards this action as ill-conceived, flawed, ludicrous in its demands, unpatriotic and malicious.
    The credibility of this group, their representation and standing in the Christian community needs to be established. The recent outcry on the hot cross buns turned out to be the work of a small fringe group as opposed to mainstream Christianity where the likes of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference distanced themselves from this kind of extremism. All Christians should not be tarred with the same brush.
    Dietary laws apparently are not a fundamental article of the Christian faith. For example in the Old Testament in Leviticus 11: 8 of the swine it is said “of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch;..”, yet today it is consumed by Christians. In the New Testament it is stated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:16-18: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
    Therefore what we see here is religious apartheid, where this Christian group would have no objection on missionary work preaching brotherhood of man, love thy neighbour, and Jesus as the Saviour, while blatantly showing intolerance and bigotry on religious labelling. We do not believe that mainstream Christianity supports this.
    Manufacturers rely on various factors in ensuring their product has a competitive edge to increase their market share. These include patented technologies, unique features, better pricing, packaging and/or service and product enhancements that add value. Amongst these tried and tested practices is endorsement by organisations and services such as a medical body, an industry guild or association, quality standards e.g. ISO, Bureau of Standards, Good Food Society, Proudly South African, Heart Foundation, Vegetarian society, Shuddah Hindu, Kosher and of course, the Halaal certification marks. A Halaal mark signifies that the product was produced in a Halaal compliant facility which is free from Pork, alcohol and non-Halaal materials using only permitted ingredients and is an assu rance to consumers that follow a Halaal lifestyle.
    In our free market society and it stands to reason that these enhancements are for that competitive edge. No businessman will intentionally pay a price to have such an enhancement if there was no demand or to deliberately aggravate his customers. Therefore the process is a self regulating one in that customers vote with their feet and will take their business elsewhere if it does not satisfy their own criteria of price, presentation, performance, religious assurance etc.
    The challenge on constitutional grounds will be a double edged sword as it is also the constitutional right of religious and other interest groups to have their rights of religion and association upheld. And what about the rights of the trader to be able to freely market his products on a willing seller, willing buyer basis without being impeded by a fringe group wanting to forcibly impose its views unjustly on others?
    Even the call by this misguided group for government intervention on duplicating products and having measures in place to control costs is naive, ludicrous to the extreme and impractical to implement. We regard any action that oxygenate the embers of the flame of hatred between South Africans of all races, colours, religious persuasions as unpatriotic and a betrayal of the struggle which included immense contributions by religious leaders to establish a just and democratic society.
    SANHA extends an invitation in an Islamic spirit of tolerance and brotherhood to this unknown coalition group to meet with us so that we may enlighten them on the beauty of a Halaal lifestyle, and demonstrate the folly of their action which leads to bigotry and intolerance.

    • The Christian bible is clear…ritualized food is no permitted,but muslims can eat non halal food,there is no competitive edge in marketing for a small segment of the population and ignoring a larger segment,these companies are banking on no one noticing or caring from other religions,actually more and more Christians are caring,these companies long term mistake,there is nothing wrong with producing food that is not halal and halal…a Christian cannot complain about this as he is then …SMALL MINDED…but that does not apply to a muslim,WHY is that???

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  5. We already have Steakhouse Franchises not serving Pork Spareribs….And this Halaal Hallabaloo for what demographic of the South African Population ?? Will all this nonsense stop before ordinary South Africans will not be able to bring home the bacon anymore because of the Religious paranoia of a very small segment of this country’s population.

  6. Dearcommentators our constitution guaranties all MINORITIES their rights to freedoms and equality shared by majorities !it should be no different in regards to religiOn! So what if there is a Halaal mark on it! I have many muslim friends and am grateful I can find the products I like to share with them too! One would think this is common sense, let’s not be short minded! Hypocritical to the belief oF muslims,and to gail no one is stopping you from eating ur bacon! We would like to see that muslim people walk into bigger chainstores and find things to consume! The same as the rest of us!segregating them to little shops and small shops wen we are such a diverse country is truly the thinking of the small minded imbicils and undercover islamaphobics

  7. I don’t want the Halaal sign on my food packaging. The retail stores must be divided so that the Muslim can buy all his/her good without worries and I can buy my food without sponsoring the Islamic Council who use the money to buy weapons and killing the non-Muslims.