Ever wished you could get a hot new body that screams confidence, sex appeal, and deep-seated racial anxiety?
Well good news – it’s now in reach, all thanks to a new diet sweeping the nation and promising to help you shed those winter kilos without losing any of the excesses bigotry you’ve been carrying.
Yes, in the wake of Australia’s latest round of Islamophobia the anti-Halal truthers are back, encouraging their compatriots to boycott Halal certified foods which, they believe, are funding terrorism and imposing a ‘Muslim tax’ on all Australian consumers.
Their movement promises to halt the spread of global jihad and, in case you weren’t sold, is also marketing itself as a kind of anti-multicultural alternative to Jenny Craig.
Halal products are food items that have been cleared by Muslim religious bodies or private certifiers as ‘not haram’, meaning they have been produced in line with specifications made in the Qur’an.
To have your product officially certified as Halal you pay a fee to one of these authorities who will perform an inspection and sign off on the accuracy of the claim.
It’s a process that has incensed a small but vocal online community of (mostly) white Australians.
Sharing anti-multicultural dietary advice would all be fun and games if no-one was paying attention to this clique, but they’ve managed to have their voice heard on a national level, collect some relatively powerful allies, and even bully companies into rescinding on their Halal classifications.
Having hounded the Byron Bay Cookie Company about its Halal certified Anzac biscuits, the campaign recently zeroed in on the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, forcing it to back out of a lucrative contract with airline Emirates.
Fleurieu had paid just over $1,000 for the certification and said that losing the $50,000 Emirates contract could force it to cut back on staff hours.
Clearly, the campaign against Halal is more serious than the bizarre facebook meme above might imply.
And that brings us to the woman at the heart of the Australian movement: Kirralie Smith.
Smith has become the public face of the anti-Halal movement, with widespread media coverage of her views. Earlier this year she even gave a two-hour presentation at the NSW Parliament, at the behest of MP Fred Nile.
Smith is polite and passionate, and has pitched her arguments cleverly, positioning herself as a kind of consumer choice advocate.
She describes herself as a concerned mother of three who became interested in Halal after attending a seminar where she was inspired to found the Halal Choices website.
Smith’s chief argument is that paying for Halal certification forces companies to increase the cost of their goods and then pass that cost on to all consumers.
It’s an appealing case to make to a non-Muslim crowd: why should you pay for an accreditation you don’t give a toss about?
It doesn’t take too long to find cracks in this argument, however.
Smith is not able to point to any company that has raised the price of its goods as a result of signing on to Halal, and is at a loss to explain why non-Halal competitors aren’t coming along and undercutting their opponents’ apparently inflated prices.
Given Fleurieu paid just over $1,000 for their certification, is there really any reason to think this expenditure could be forcing companies like Cadbury to secretly up their prices?
“Well that sounds like a bargain,” Smith says, in relation to Fleurieu’s fee.
“That’s not consistent with other reports that we’ve heard. But either way, the cost, that’s one factor and one thing that upsets consumers. I’m trying to represents all the concerns of customers. Others don’t want anything that has to do with any religious practice on their area where they do grocery purchases, you know, there’s a lot of issues here.”
Cost is, indeed, just one factor. Problem is, none of the others seem to stick too well either.
Smith is concerned profits from Halal could be used to fund terrorism and she points to overseas examples as evidence of the risk.
Yet when approached by New Matilda, the Australian Crime Commission had this to say in regards to its recent Eligo National Taskforce, which found some financial links in Australia to groups including Hezbollah:
“The task force has identified direct links between serious and organised, money laundering and terrorism funding. However, the Australian Crime Commission is not aware of any direct links between the legitimate Halal certification industry and money laundering or the financing of terrorist groups.”
Terrorism links have not emerged in Australia, and the proliferation of Halal certification organisations, seen as suspicious by Smith, seems to have some fairly mundane causes.
The Federal Department of Agriculture, for example, needs to use a range of Halal certifiers when exporting beef to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, where the import standards are not uniform.
“Some countries require that an Islamic Organisation also be approved (listed) by the religious authority in that country,” the Department told New Matilda.
As has been well noted elsewhere, Halal certification plays a vital role in opening markets like these to Australia.
The longer the conversation with Smith goes on, the more it seems her most defendable requests are also her pettiest ones, such as better labelling of Halal products (which strikes me as a bigger issue for Muslims than non-Muslims).
Make no mistake though, Smith sees the threat as great, and every now and again she breaks from her regular talking points and offers something like this:
“Islam won’t need all out violent jihad to dominate the world. It is being done by stealth and you and I are funding it every day with our grocery purchases”.
It’s a line from one of her (surprising well produced) online videos and on the phone I ask her to explain what she means by it.
“One of the principals of Islam is to dominate, to make all other cultures submissive, you know, it means to submit,” she tells me. “And so obviously there isn’t going to be jihad in this country and I’m very thankful for that, and I understand that most Muslims wouldn’t want that, I really do get that, however, the fact is that Islam is about making non-Muslims submit, and this is a way of submission.”
Wait, what? How could it be that Islam is a religion of domination but Australian Muslims aren’t trying to make the rest of us submit? When I put this contradiction to her, she responds with a slight laugh.
“Yeah that’s a confusing one isn’t it? I think again there’s probably 100 answers to that one question so I’m not going to presume to answer for the Muslims in this country but I see that many of them don’t act upon what is written in the Qu’ran or what is taught by some Imams so I’m very thankful for that.”
It’s this strange response that reveals the cognitive dissonance at the heart of Smith’s thinking, which sees Islam as a threat but acknowledges Australian Muslims are doing nothing particularly threatening.
“This is not going to go away. We can’t ignore it and say: she’ll be right mate,” she warns in a video. When delivering the ‘she’ll be right’ line her suburban accent drops, replaced by a slow ocker twang.
Having researched Halal in internet chatrooms and read the work of some Imams, Smith has come to the conclusion that many producers currently paying for their food to be certified do not need to do so, as the food they produce is self-evidently Halal.
It takes a while to draw it out, but this is where her general anxieties about Islam start to melt into all out conspiracy theories of a global nature.
Our conversation moves back to Flerieu, the yoghurt company. Smith accuses Emirates of using “standover tactics” on Fleurieu, demanding the supplier be Halal certified even though (she believes) its products are self-evidently so. She compares this behaviour to the tactics employed by the Russian and Italian mafia.
So I put it to Smith that it is a little conspiratorial to suggest a Dubai based airline would standover a distant dairy supplier to force it to pay $1,000 to some meek certification body in Australia. There doesn’t appear to be anything linking Emirates and the Queensland Halal Certification Service (QHCS), which provided Fleurieu with its certification.
How are QHCS and Emirates connected in the shakedown of Fleurieu (an intimidation Fleurieu have never suggested took place)?
“I think it comes back to the ideology that’s behind Emirates and the ideology that is behind these certification companies, which is Islam,” Smith says.
“They’re Islamic, there is an Islamic agenda behind it.”
And there it is.
It’s reminiscent of the myth of the global Jewry; an omniscient religious force working towards a singular, ill-defined but certainly nefarious end. Smith’s online videos point to speeches made at Halal conferences as further evidence of a global plot.
The contradictions in Smith’s reasoning are frequent, but she appears to broadly understand Halal in Australia as part of a bigger clash of civilisations.
The evidence suggest a more likely option is this: Halal certification is a slightly inconsistent but useful way for observant Australian Muslims to quickly discover whether their Weet-Bix and groceries are haram or not.
With this in mind, the consternations of a sometimes reasonable, often conspiratorial anti-Halal fighter shouldn’t give us too much reason to stop and think.
But, amazingly, Smith has managed to push her views beyond the fringe online audience of Islamophobes.
Needless to say, Quadrant are admirers and the Q Society has hosted and promoted her work.
More alarmingly, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan is also a big fan. In 2013 he penned this piece, which appears to draw its information entirely from Smith and her website.
Everywhere you read about this issue, you see Smith’s lines of argument, with their fruitier extensions sometimes excluded.
For all the weaknesses in her case, Smith seems genuinely upset when accused of being a bigot, and she strikes a different tone to the outright racism that marks the broader anti-Halal campaign.
Yet it remains impossible to avoid the conclusion that her objections to Halal, the process of certification, and the interpretations of the Qu’ran that underpin it, derive their passion from a broader anxiety about Islam.
With that anxiety gaining traction around Australia once again, Smith’s Halal truthers will continue to berate businesses with their views and chase that bigot’s body they’ve always dreamt of.