An exclusive interview with Habib D.Ghanim sr
President of USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
and ISWA Halal Certification Department
(Washington DC-NewsHalal, Rabi`I 21, 1437, January 1, 2016)
Habib D. Ghanim sr, is a 65 year old Washington DC based president of USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc. He is one of the most active Halal expert and Halal certifier in USA. He is also serving as president of ISWA Halal Certification Department since 1999. Being a founder member of World Halal Council, Mr. Habib participated in significant number of international Halal conferences where he always rise key issues related to the Halal Certification and Halal Standards.
He emphasizes on Muslim countries and businesses to investment in Halal sector and regard it the best solution for Muslim consumers so that they can get true Halal products. He advocates for one global Halal standard and logo.
Unlike European Union, USA Muslim consumers and Halal industry is enjoying more freedom such as unstunned meat production etc. Habib Ghanim sr spoke to NewsHalal.com about his experience in USA Halal and also about future of Halal in the USA.
NewsHalal: Please tell us about yourself and also about ISWA Halal Certification Department in USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: ISWA Halal Certification Department is managed by the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc. which is an internationally and domestically recognized full service commerce and professional certification body that is dedicated to promoting Halal business and understanding of Islamic dietary compliance. The chamber facilitates dialogue between industry and consumers.
The USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is under the supervision of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA) and American Muslim Halal Compliance Council (AMHCC) which ensures compliance with all Islamic Dietary and Shariah Laws.
The Chamber is a member of the World Halal Council (WHC) and the American Association of Halal Certifiers (AAHC).
NewsHalal: Could you also tell us about the number of Muslims in USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: 15 to 19 million estimated this year.
NewsHalal: How you started engaging in Halal Certification? What was the reason?
Habib Ghanim sr: I wanted to eat halal when I came as a student in 1973 and after so many questions unanswered in the food stores chains etc I decided to slaughter my own lamb, goat and cow or chicken as needed and shared with my friends eventually it became a monthly chore. and voila here we are today doing thousands daily
News Halal: How many Halal Certifying Bodies are working in USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: About ten major international recognized certifiers and ten to 15 local or national home based certifiers
NewsHalal: What is your relation to the World Halal Council?
Habib Ghanim sr: I am a founding member of the WHC since its inception and now am executive committee member. I was in charge of election for ten years until the split with unfortunate WHFC.
NewsHalal: Is there any problem in USA for Muslim consumers to get real Halal Certified foods, beverages and services? How is industry behavior with Muslim consumers?
Habib Ghanim sr: No major issues except the local mom and pop stores cheating and mixing halal and non halal hand slaughter and machine slaughtered.
The industry is very receptive to the needs of muslim comsumers in USA. They actually go out to meet thier demands and get halal certified products.
NewsHalal: How many Slaughter houses are run and owned by Muslims in the USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: Unfortunately on three small ones that I am aware of and under my supervision. The rest are non Muslim owned and they produce halal to fill in the orders of halal consumers and major exporters especially the poultry
NewsHalal: What is the role of ISWA Halal Certification in promoting Halal awareness and true Halal products?
Habib Ghanim sr: We try our level best but because there are many self certifiers who are corrupt and cheaters, it undermines the true halal products.
NewsHalal: Who established ISWA Halal Certification Department?
Habib Ghanim sr: USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc in 1987 by Habib Ghanim sr.
NewsHalal: Could you tell me the number of executives and staff at the Islamic Center for Halal Certification?
Habib Ghanim sr: 5 executives and the slaughter and professional staff is about 250 people.
NewsHalal: What Halal Standards do you implement for Halal Certification?
Habib Ghanim sr: World Halal Council standards, WHFC and MUI and MUIS and JAKIM depending on the countries of import.
NewsHalal: What is the most serious problem in USA Halal sector?
Habib Ghanim sr: Self certifiers and extortionist who claim they are muftis and go from store to store threatening the owners that if they don’t pay USD 100 monthly to the imam or muftis they tell them , they will say its not Halal and Haram to ruin thier sales and business and they collect just like the Italian mafia does.
NewsHalal: How the Muslim businessmen or the community in USA deals with the issues such as Halal Standards, Halal Certification or non Muslims interference in Halal?
Habib Ghanim sr: Each one just wants to see a Halal sticker or label and they are satisfied period. No checking except some self apointed muftis who extort from the stores and lie in the prophets names and call them selves halal monitoring group.
NewsHalal: How you are dealing with issues such as stunning or mechanical slaughtering?
Habib Ghanim sr: Both hand slaughter and mechanical slaughter , stun or stunned are acceptable. The biggest issue is the price . The consumers want the cheapest price.
NewsHalal: Is there any campaign against Halal in USA or is there any restrictions on Halal from federal or local governments?
Habib Ghanim sr: No US government restrictions as long as USDA inspectors are on site you can do ritual slaughter. This applies for Kosher and Halal.
NewsHalal: While there are so many Halal Standards such as GCC Halal Standards, JAKIM Halal Standards, MUI, Indonesia Halal Standards, UAE Halal Standards and OIC-SMIIC Halal Standards? Which one is most popular in the USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: The GCC standards and UAE as it is the most practical and accepted by the biggest buyers who are from the middle east.
NewsHalal: Is the difference of Halal Standards confusing Muslim consumers or Halal Industry?
Habib Ghanim sr: Yes definitely. The consumers don’t know why they have different standards honestly and we tell them we will do whatever they want as long as it is done by Muslim slaughter men only hand or machine ( which is cheaper ). Few do stun or by hand but the labor costs us an average of $200 a day for each slaughter men including insurance, salary, housing and taxes. For manual hand slaughter we need 7 people, so it is expensive for the consumers but if they they choose mechanical we hire only two or three people so less costs thus cheaper.
NewsHalal: Many different Halal Standards confusing Halal Foods, Beverages, Pharmaceutical, Cosmetics and meat industries, as well as consumers. What is the solution?
Habib Ghanim sr: It is difficult in my humble opinion to have a solution as each importing country has theirs. We should be united under one World Halal Food Council and stop the division politics between the heads of WHC and WHFC.
NewsHalal: Is there any possibility that Islamic Ummah can introduce a complete, concrete and collective Halal Standards?
Habib Ghanim sr: No, not now as we have people with personal agendas and interests who benefit from the split not unity.
NewsHalal: What is the role of World Halal Council?
Habib Ghanim sr: I think WHC and WHFC should be united and become one body and honestly that will solve the problem we all have. My goal in life is to see that happen one day soon inshallah
NewsHalal: Being a Muslim and a minority in the USA, how do you deal with the issues of Halal and non-Halal?
Habib Ghanim sr: Simple, we have freedom of religion and constitutional rights and equality and thus we are blessed in USA.Muslims in USA abide by the laws of the USA and integrated well into the society unlike the European Muslims.
NewsHalal: Is there any Halal testing laboratory in the USA? If possible, please give some details.
Habib Ghanim sr: We do independent testing by insta labs. I have a whole attachment which will be sent later. It is excellent and cheap.
NewsHalal: What are the most growing Halal segments in the USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: Meat first then organic poultry and now processed meat like salami etc used in making pizzas.
NewsHalal: Is Halal tourism gaining some momentum in the USA like in Europe, China, S. Korea and Japan?
Habib Ghanim sr: No, not yet. Why? I don`t know but I think it is because most muslims go back to thier homelands for holidays thus the need has not arisen yet but it will soon happen.
NewsHalal: Please tell us whether Muslim consumers in the USA and North America understand the difference between Halal slaughtering and stunning or mechanical slaughtering?
Habib Ghanim sr: Yes they do, but opt for what is cheapest especially African and south east Asian Muslims.
NewsHalal: As a Halal organization what kinds of inquiries you receive and how you address consumer concerns?
Habib Ghanim sr: Mainly hand versus mechanical slaughter questions are asked and many don`t know what Zabiha Halal means honestly.
NewsHalal: What do you do to promote Halal awareness among Muslim consumers?
Habib Ghanim sr: World Halal day on 17th day of Ramadan and having Iftars daily to educate and promote awareness.
NewsHalal: What is the future of Halal Foods and Beverage industry in the USA? How do you see Halal Market potential within the USA?
Habib Ghanim sr: Very big market potential in billions and millions of us dollars. Now that awareness is going into processed foods, vaccines, cosmetics and vitamins etc.
NewsHalal: What kind of role Halal Certifying Bodies in the USA should play to make sure quality of true Halal Foods, beverages and pharmaceuticals etc.?
Habib Ghanim sr: Making sure our logos are recognized and copyright trademarked to stop the fraud in the mom and pop levels.
NewsHalal: How the US Muslim consumers distinguish fake and true Halal logos?
Habib Ghanim sr: Not yet at that level. All the care is to see the Arabic word HALAL and they believe it even if it is fake.
What we need to make sure that Muslims in US are getting real Halal products?
To start suing and identifying the criminal fraudulent Muslim companies who make their own labels and sell without a proper Halal Certification body supervision.
It should be mandated to have an independent HCB otherwise no one can sell halal products IMHO.
NewsHalal: What measures are essential to make sure that the current and upcoming Muslim generation will get and consume real Halal products?
Habib Ghanim sr: Get the younger generation to be in the Halal busines and services at all levels from school to institutions.
NewsHalal: Please give your message to Muslim consumers around the world?
Habib Ghanim sr: Unite and work with recognized Halal certification bodies in the USA and not fight about cultural issues or schools of thoughts differences. Eat and demand only Halal to bring awareness to the businesses so we promote Islam and healthy tayiban foods.
“Work on commonalities first and make money to invest in our own slaughter houses so that we can do our own Halal productions”.