A food shop in Sydenham, Durban, had tongues wagging after a contributor to the Daily News’s BackChat column questioned whether it was appropriate for the owner of The Lunch Box to advertise that it was “Muslim-owned”Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Businesses that openly advertise being Muslim-owned do not need to obtain certification that they adhere to Halaal guidelines.

That’s according to the Islamic Watchdog Movement, which came to the defence of a local eatery this week.

The food shop in Sydenham, Durban, had tongues wagging after a contributor to the Daily News’s BackChat column questioned whether it was appropriate for the owner of The Lunch Box to advertise that it was “Muslim-owned”.

The “BackChatter”, who did not supply a name, asked if this meant that only Muslims were allowed to buy from the takeaway.

“There are hundreds of businesses owned by other people who are not Muslim, and they don’t advertise as ‘owned by Christians’ or Jews or Hindus,” the BackChatter said.

In a Facebook response to the issue, the Islamic Watchdog Movement said businesses owned by Muslims were exempt from the normal process of obtaining Halaal certification.

Writing on the Facebook page “Durban Muslims”, the organisation said: “Muslims do not need to get a Halaal certificate as they take it upon themselves to ensure that the food is suitable, and that does not mean people who are not Muslims are unwelcome at the place.”

It said The Lunch Box respected all its customers, whether or not they were Muslim.

Speaking in his personal capacity, the Muslim Judicial Council’s (MJC) Shaykh Achmat Sedick said he did not see any problem with a business stating that it was Muslim-owned or - managed, as it was a matter of identity rather than religion.

“Should any person of the other religious persuasions or belief systems wish to declare such an identity of their respective businesses, they are also free to do so. The South African Constitution allows ‘Freedom of Religion’, ‘Freedom of Movement’ and it allows everyone to conduct business on a fair, honest and non-discriminatory basis,” he said.

Sedick said he had not had the opportunity to engage other MJC officials on the matter. However, if a business stated it was Muslim-owned, it gave potential customers the freedom to decide if they wanted to eat there or not, he said. The declaration also made it clear to people that the business was halaal, meaning that no pork or alcohol was served on the premises.

In a statement, Ebrahim Lockhat from the SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha) said businesses chose to promote themselves in a manner that best served their customers and commercial interests, which could include declaring their religious affiliations.

“The criteria for halaal certification does not entail and is not dependent on religious affiliation, but is focused on the maintenance of standards. It is ludicrous to think that by declaring religious affiliation, businesses compel customers exclusively of that faith to patronise the outlet.

“Sanha does not wish to see issues such as these being used to oxygenate the dying embers of apartheid,” he said.

Amina Vahed of The Lunch Box said she found herself having to explain what “Muslim-owned” meant after customers saw the BackChat message. 

The words were written next to the word “Halaal” in her original advertisement.

Vahed said this meant that although they were not Halaal certified, they undertook the responsibility to ensure that their food and processes involved were Halaal.

“This in no way means that there is any prejudice towards people of other religions/cultures. Our humble home-based business is extremely grateful to have the continued support of our local community (not just the Muslims).

“We are looking at this incident in a positive light as it has brought about awareness of what the term ‘Halaal’ means,” she said.

The issue became a major talking point on Facebook, with 72 shares, more than 130 reactions and 31 comments.

Daily News