SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has rebutted allegations by a foreign news site that its halal certification process is corrupt, saying that it places utmost priority in ensuring the integrity of its system.
An article published last Wednesday (April 22) by Hong Kong-based outlet Asia Sentinel alleged that the council shows "favouritism" in its recognition of foreign halal certification bodies (FCBs).
Asia Sentinel had also alleged that the assistant director of the council's Halal Certification Strategic Unit Munir Hussain is currently being investigated for corruption by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), based on evidence that it had supposedly provided.
When approached about the matter, a CPIB spokesman told The Straits Times on Sunday that it would not confirm or deny if any individuals are being investigated for corruption, due to confidentiality issues.
FCBs are organisations Muis deems to have similar standards to its own halal certification system, and whose products imported here are certified as halal, or fit for the consumption of Muslims here. These organisations can earn thousands of dollars monthly by selling exported products to Singapore.
In a statement on Saturday, the council said: "While Muis recognises that FCBs operate in different social, religious and legal contexts from Singapore, Muis only recognises those who are able to demonstrate that they adhere to similar standards adopted by Muis, as well as the clearly stipulated terms and conditions for recognition.
"This includes organisational governance and competence as well as compatibility in religious standards and guidelines."
It added that Muis manages the process of halal certification here to the highest standards of governance, and that its processes are aligned with international standards.
The council received the ISO 17065 certification for entities certifying products, processes and services from the International Organisation for Standardisation two years ago.
Asia Sentinel alleged that Mr Munir had caused Muis' delisting of a certifying body in Australia as an FCB.
It did not specify how this was done.
The article, which has been reproduced on other outlets like news site Halal Focus, also said that Mr Munir had interfered with and undermined the Australian body's attempt to be re-certified as an FCB.
This was supposedly done by actions like divulging its sensitive information to a competitor, and forcing it to hire certain staff members.
Muis said that key decisions on halal certification are not made by one person, but by an independent panel.
ST understands that this panel is made up of internal members of Muis management who are not involved in any stages of processing the application for halal certification, and that the halal unit collates information and makes recommendations.
In its statement on Saturday, the council said that there are currently 74 Muis-certified FCBs, and Muis has removed the FCB recognition status of 10 organisations which did not meet its requirements over the last 10 years.
FCBs must have an adequate halal management process as well as a competent legal Islamic advisory board which is responsible for religious advice in halal certification, added the council.
Muis said that the allegations made against it are "extremely serious" and it is currently investigating the issue.
It is also considering taking action against the publishers of the article.
The council encouraged members of the public not to circulate unverified claims, and that they should approach the proper authorities if they have any doubts.