Midamar Corp. and directors Jalel and Bill Aossey have been criminally charged in Cedar Rapids for allegedly falsely marking $4.9 million worth of meat as meeting strict halal standards and selling the noncompliant meat to millions of Muslims worldwide in Malaysia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and other countries. Also indicated is Islamic Services of America, an organization approved by Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE to certify beef for import under Islamic standards. They are facing 91 other counts for allegedly making false statements on export certificates, wire fraud and money laundering. The case could raise an interesting free exercise question.
Midamar Corp., Islamic Services of America, and the Aosseys pleaded not guilty. Their defense is that this is ultimately a religious not a legal question as to what meets the standards for Halal certification. While federal prosecutors claims that the animals were not slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, the defendants suggest that there can be variation in how those laws are met and that they are being prosecuted for a disagreement over religious standards.
The Koran states in various parts that the name of Allah must be invoked and specifies how an animal is to be killed to be good with God:
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
— Qurʼan, Surah 5 (al-Maʼidah), ayah 3
The company insists that it has a “high level of halal integrity” and that “[t]he allegations of halal fraud are due to a ‘one size fits all’ approach taken by the government authorities.”
Midamar and Islamic Services of America told customers all of its cattle are slaughtered by hand by specially-trained Muslims who always recite prayer. Midamar also said it did not use penetrative captive bolt stunning equipment that is common in meatpacking operations. However, the prosecutors say that Midamar’s primary beef supplier from 2007 to 2010 was a Windom, Minnesota, meatpacking plant that used bolt stunning to ensure all cattle slaughtered “were rendered senseless and were dead.” The plant was not Halal certified by Indonesia and Malaysia and allegedly did not have Muslim slaughtermen present and did not pray or recite the “Tasmia” prayer.
To make matters worse, the government claims that Midamar had employees remove federal labels showing the plant as the supplier and falsified labels to say that a certified plant was the supplier.
That seems a bit more than a simple disagreement over religious practices, if true.
Source: The Guardian