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Is there a science of Halal?

ONE ORGANIZATION I’ve been working for as an editor for their quarterly magazine is going gaga over preparations for IHAS 2011, a major event it is reviving after a two-year hiatus.

 IHAS or International Halal Assurance Seminar is like the MIHAS or Malaysian IHAS of Kuala Lumpur or other IHASes of Muslim countries where there is a recognized certifying body for Halal or products that are considered as “allowed” in Islam and contrasted to Haram, which is “not allowed.” This event is usually held every year to promote Halal products and services and to take cognizance of companies producing Halal products or rendering Halal services.

Well, it’s a big event for Muslim countries, particularly those who have stakes in the growing Halal trade – estimated to top US $3 billion in a couple of years.

From a cursory research and a continuing discussion with Imams and Hajjs of the organization, I have learned that before 1960 or thereabouts, Halal was a communal practice among Muslims. It’s like the Kosher of the Jews, where certain kinds of food and consumables are prohibited and considered “dirty.” Likewise, the practice prescribes a manner by which slaughtering of animals for consumption is done.

After some sectors of the Muslim communities in the United States came up with prescribed, but more informal standards on evaluating whether a certain kind of food is Halal or not, other countries followed. Today, any Muslim will never patronize any consumable or service without the Halal certification issued by an authority recognized to be so, but more accepted to be so because of the way it conducts inspection and implements quality assurance as to the “Halality” of a certain product or service.

And one of these authorities is the organization I serve as an editor.

Going back to the frenetic pace of preparations for the organization’s revived IHAS, which will be held in Manila this June, we were in the thick of finalizing the list of topics for discussion in the two-day conference.

Considering the developments since the last IHAS was held in Manila, it was decided to add new topics for discussion. The technicals were already covered in the first ten topics and the discussion focused on the last two.

As the even coincides with the 30th anniversary of the organization, one the new topics would be about the role of said organization in the Halal global trade – from inspection to audit to certification. So, when the question was raised as to what the final topic would be, the head of the organization broached this: “The science of Halal.”

Being more of an observer and consulted only in matters about the magazine, sometimes on the correctness of their other publications, I just watched how the idea would perform in the ensuring discussion.

One said: Is there such… a science of Halal?

Another: Halal is supposed to be more religion-based, so it cannot be a scientific discipline.

The rejoinder: Science and religion are irreconcilable.

Then the one who made the suggestion: We will be the first to establish the science of Halal, beginning with the scientific way of determining what is Halal and what is not.

A voice from somewhere: The Japanese have invented a machine that determines whether a material – food product or any consumable – contains pork. So, there is now a scientific evaluation of Halal!

Being so, the group agreed to include the topic.

Some 200 Halal experts and delegates/representatives from some 20 countries around the world where this organization’s stamp of approval as Halal is accepted, including the United States, Canada, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and, of course, the Philippines.

And because of a machine or more specifically a pork detector, here comes the science of Halal!