Campaigns against halal are anti-Islamic bullying: race commissioner


Campaigns against Australian companies that make halal products are "little more than anti-Islamic bullying", according to Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane. In an address in Adelaide on Thursday evening, Dr Soutphommasane will call out recent campaigns against food businesses that have halal certification, including pie maker Four'N'Twenty, the Byron Bay Cookie Company and Fleurieu Milk Company. Fleurieu has recently ended its $50,000 yoghurt supply deal with Emirates after a social media campaign.


Posters on Facebook had suggested the fee the company paid to become halal certified was being used to fund terrorism. Sales manager Nick Hutchinson later said the company wanted to avoid negative publicity


Four'N'Twenty and the Byron Bay Cookie Company have refused to drop their certification. 


"When it comes to halal, ongoing campaigns against it are little more than anti-Islamic bullying," Dr Soutphommasane will tell the Centre for Research in Education annual oration. 

"Any suggestion that certification fees are proceeds to terrorism is unfounded. 


"Australia has laws that forbid people and organisations from funding illegal activity such as terrorism." 


The Race Discrimination Commissioner will add that the halal certification does not prevent non-Muslims from eating such foods. 


Dr Soutphommasane will say halal labelling is primarily focused on hygiene and ingredients, such as ensuring ingredients are free from pork and that machinery involved in making food has not been cleaned with alcohol.


The Race Discrimination Commissioner will say that there has been a noticeable rise in anti-Muslim sentiment during recent months, "amid community anxiety about the threat of terrorism". 


"Many Muslim communities have made clear to me their concerns about the safety of their members, especially women who wear visible Islamic dress such as headscarves." 


He will argue that anti-Muslim sentiment "should have no place in our society". 


"Every person should be free to live their lives without being harassed or intimidated because of their religion."


Dr Soutphommasane will also tell the Centre for Research in Education that there is frequently a racial element to anti-Muslim feeling. 


"Religion can be used as a surrogate for race. 


"When we see verbal and other attacks against Muslim Australians, it is often accompanied by a nastiness and logic that resembles racial hatred."