Muis reiterates integrity of halal certification process following allegations

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has said that it has not been approached by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in connection with any investigations, refuting allegations published in different foreign media.

Muis released a statement on Friday reiterating the integrity of its halal certification process after several articles were published alleging corruption. It added that it was reviewing the complaints but stood by its "robust" process.

"As a statutory board, we take all complaints seriously and will carefully review the various allegations raised... Thus far, Muis has not been approached by the writers of the articles or posts for comments before they were published," Muis said.

"Muis will not hesitate to take the appropriate actions should there be any evidence of wrongdoing by its officers, or if the allegations being propagated are found to be untrue."

Friday's public statement followed another by Muis last Monday, which was in response to allegations by Hong Kong-based news outlet Asia Sentinel that the council showed favouritism in its recognition of foreign halal certification bodies (FCBs).

Since then, other articles have been published repeating and furthering the accusations.

Muis said on Friday that a team - led by a senior ranking officer from Muis and comprising officers who are not involved in the halal unit or its matters - has been set up, reporting directly to Muis' chief executive Esa Masood.

An independent review panel chaired by a Muis council member has also been established to review the process and findings of the investigation. Muis did not name the senior ranking officer or the council member.

FCBs are organisations Muis deems to have similar standards to its own halal certification system and whose products imported into Singapore are certified as halal, or fit for consumption by Muslims.

These organisations can earn thousands of dollars monthly by selling exported products to Singapore.

Last month, Asia Sentinel alleged that the assistant director of the council's Halal Certification Strategic Unit, Mr Munir Hussain, is being investigated for corruption by the CPIB. A CPIB spokesman would not confirm or deny the claim, citing confidentiality issues.

According to the news outlet, Mr Munir had caused Muis' delisting of a certifying body in Australia as an FCB, although it did not specify how this was done.

The article, which was reproduced on other outlets such as 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, supposedly through actions such as divulging its sensitive information to a competitor and forcing it to hire certain staff.

Muis has said that key decisions on halal certification are not made by one person but by an independent panel and that the certification of FCBs are held to the same rigorous standards as local certification processes.

It added that those with "conclusive information and evidence" can e-mail it to info@muis.gov.sg by June 15.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 31, 2020, with the headline 'Muis reiterates integrity of halal certification process following allegations'. Subscribe