Jakarta. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic authority, denied on Wednesday accusations that foreign organizations hoping to sell food in Indonesia had been extorted for bribes during the halal-auditing process.
“For the [halal] certificate issuance, it’s free of charge,” MUI chairman Amidhan Shaberah said, as quoted by state-run Antara News Agency.
He said that companies were asked to pay travel expenses for MUI auditors and nothing more.
Indonesian news portal Tempo.co reported on Monday that the MUI had accepted large payments from Australian institutions hoping to receive certification.
Sydney Halal Certification Authority chairman Mohamed El-Mouelhy said that his organization and six other Australian institutions had together paid Aus$26,000 ($23,418) to MUI officials in 2006. He said his own organization had paid Aus$4,000 but had not received a license.
“I have to pay all, starting from the food, airplanes, hotel and pocket money,” he said.
The operations manager of Australia’s Al-Iman Society made the same complaint, saying that his organization paid Aus$4,000 without receiving certification.
The money, according to Tempo, was transferred directly to Amidhan.
Australian Halal Food Service, a major Australian halal provider, allegedly transferred Aus$10,000 to prevent MUI from revoking its license, according to the Tempo report.
Amidhan denied the allegations. He said that some organizations did not receive certification because they failed to meet requirements, which include Islamic community service, Islamic education, permanent offices and the presence of a commission consisting of three certified halal auditors and consistent operating procedures.
“They should also have good administration that makes the auditing process easy,” he said.
Certified institution should also be members of the World Halal Food Council, he said, and have the capability to work with the MUI in monitoring products.
“The MUI has 44 institutions which it has licensed to issue halal certification worldwide,” he said.
He said that Australian Halal Food Service had its license suspended for failing to slaughter animals correctly, and not for monetary reasons.
Animals must be slaughtered according to the specific prescriptions of Islamic jurisprudence, as determined by clergy, for their meat to be considered lawful for observant Muslims to consume.