Azhar Vadi | Cii News | 06 February 2013
Islamic radio personality and social commentator, Ebrahim Gangat, is a jolly fellow often referred to as “Baboo” or the “Big White Bear” by those who are close to him. His sweeping smile and iconic burst of laughter not only adds sparkle to his on-air presentations at Cii Radio, but has brought life to many a public function in the Muslim community. It takes a lot to make him angry.
On Wednesday morning, he was however audibly upset, as he dealt with a topic involving the South African National Halaal Authority (Sanha) and the Jamiatul Ulama Kwazulu-Natal (JUKZN). The issue stemmed from an email sent out via the Sanha mailing list entitled, “TANSTAAFL”. The initial confusion created in reading such a headline was immediately cleared by the writer of the newsletter.
“A mnemonic for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Popularised by Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and the title of one of many books authored by him. Although many attribute the quotation to him it actually has its origins in the USA and to a lesser extent in Britain from the mid-19th century onwards by saloon owners through the concept of offering a no cost lunch to customers who purchased a drink. The expectation was that most patrons would buy more than one drink and that they would become loyal customers. The cost of the free lunch was hidden.”
But it wasn’t this that angered the Big White Bear.
On the 25 January 2013, the Jamaitul Ulama KZN announced that it was terminating its halaal certification responsibilities. Several organisations in South Africa have set up certification processes in order to assure Muslim consumers that the products they buy are prepared in accordance with Islamic injunctions.This wing of the JUKZN ended its operation by saying that ensuring the Halaal suitability of outlets and establishments required a great deal of checks and balances.
Spokesperson, Moulana Abdullah Khan told Cii Radio at the time that,“Maintaining inspections of various outlets is a very great task.” There were approximately 28 food outlets certified and inspected by the organisation and at times this was not possible because of great distances between the stores that required certification. “Maintaining inspections of various outlets is a very great task,” he added.
Sanha, is one of South Africa’s leading halaal certification bodies, aligned to the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa based in Johannesburg. One would assume that the ceasing of halaal operations by the JUKZN would automatically open doors for organisations like Sanha and other certifying bodies to snap up the business from the stores left without supervision.
Up to that point all would appear to be fair and normal business practice. Muslims, by and large, appreciate the services of these organisations in doing their best to ensure that Muslims consume only accepted food.
The email released by Sanha, however, went further.
After explaining the economic principle behind the concept of “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” to mean that nothing in life is truly “free”, the email addresses the JUKZN directly.
“The spin about the “lack of professional manpower” lacks credibility considering that they had been in operation for 5 years and in fact were the pioneers of Halaal certification as far back as the 1970’s. It was down to the finance and lack of management thereof that has led them into this pitiful state,” it read.
“The JUKZN Halaal Desk, set up some five years ago, announced with great temerity a free Halaal certification service in the deluded belief that this unique selling proposition would have industry beating a path to their door.”
Sanha has often been criticized by Muslims as being a money making scheme for the charges associated with their certification process.
Pointing out the shortcoming in the JUKZN’s business model, the Sanha email continued:
“They (JUKZN) also believed that the costs of operations would be sustained by donations from certified plants and the Muslim community to their coffers. Neither industry nor the community are so naïve. Business success is dependent on them tapping into customer demands and providing quality products and services at competitive prices. The community too disapproves of being “taxed” additionally for their Halaal needs by industry which enjoys their custom and earns a profit from them.”
Thereafter the Sanha email overtly engaged in self-promotion concluding with the words, “So when next you are offered a free Halaal certification service that seems to be too good to be true, be extremely cautious for… ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’”
Ebrahim Gangat lashed out at the publication of the email. “This is a useless letter that belongs to the waste paper basket. If we have to in South Africa, make a list of what we call mischief-makers and we start pinning down people’s name, than this particular letter written by Sanha, certainly brings them out as serious mischief-makers.”
He described the letter as demeaning saying that while organisations like Sanha complain about the writings of other organisations demonizing them, “…they have now also taken the same type of stance.”
The action of Muslims are said to be judged by their intention and that’s what Gangat aimed to ascertain. ”What was the purpose of this letter? What is the maqsad? What is the idea? What is the intention behind all this? It’s certainly I think, in my opinion, obscene and disgraceful for such type of behavior from Sanha. Whoever the author of this letter is, may Allah Ta’ala save him, may Allah Ta’ala guide him guide him to understand that it doesn’t work this way. There aren’t any points as far as deen is concerned.”
Attempts were made to contact Sanha’s theological director, Moulana Muhammad Saeed Navlakhi, who was unavailable prior to the time of publication.
Tags: Ebrahim Gangat, Halaal, Jamiatul Ulama KZN, Sanha