Africa’s first halal laboratory is probably the most significant scientific achievement for South Africa Muslims in the past 300 years. That was overwhelming sentiment at the official launch of the laboratory on Wednesday, were many dignitaries such as ulema, scientists and members of the legal and business fraternity could visit the lab for the first time.
The Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) on Wednesday launched, Tokeid Biotech a new laboratory catering to the halal industry, the first of its kind in Africa. Aptly titled ‘Tokeid’, which means ‘assurance’, the laboratory will assist in identifying contents that is contained within the food that we consume and will assist in taking the local halal industry to new heights.
The Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) is a non-profit organisation providing state-of-the-art ‘omics’ services to the life science and biotech communities in South Africa. Through CPGR, halal bodies and independent individuals will have convenient access to high-end discovery and targeted molecular technologies that will provide comfort for consumers in the food that they consume.
Chairman of the Board of Tokeid Biotech and chairman of the Kaaf Trust, Dr. Anwah Nagia, explained that the family owned Kaaf Trust was excited to join the project, as it presented a viable solution to various halal certification issues.
“We are looking for projects that we believe have the basis of ethics, can contribute to building entrepreneurs, and have an 80 per cent probability of success,” he noted.
Nagia said that after following due process, the organizers partnered with the CPGR and solidified the process following meetings with both national and international halal certifying bodies.
“This is not a business angle, it is a sustainable angle, as it provides communities with unlimited benefits in terms of how it helps the umah – this is a great project,” Nagia asserted.
The director of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Halal Trust, Shaykh Ahmed Sedick, addressing the audience said that the establishment of a lab catering to the halal industry is “a need long overdue.”
Shaykh Thaafir Najaar from the Islamic Council of South Africa (ICSA) said that the lab is important for the development of the halal industry and will provide assurance for the consumer when purchasing halal products.
He also noted that the established of the lab provides a vital service to the community and reinforces the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), who encouraged his companions to be of service to humanity.
“[Tokeid Biotech] formed a service for the community, which is in line with the nature of the religion of Islam.”
Najaar said that the Almighty in Holy Qur’an does not confine permissible food to food that is halal (permissible) but extends the ruling to tayyib food (wholesome) and, therefore, speaks to the preparation and the adulteration of food products.
Well known Judge Siraj Desai said that Muslims at large have advanced tremendously and that this technological advancement in the halal industry will assist in providing the utmost level of assurance for consumers.
“100 years ago, in a court dispute, the judge asked why the affairs of Muslims are not dealt with by more intelligent men. Now 100 years later, Muslims are conducting themselves with cutting edge science and technology – it is an advance that he did not see,” Desai said.
Attorney and community activist, Igsaan Higgins said that the undertaking is the most significant contribution of Muslims in South Africa in the past 300 years.
“Muslims, living in non-Muslim countries, are always at risk of eating contaminated food or food that has not been sufficiently certified.”
He said that recent issues in the local halal industry indicates that it is not “enough” for representatives of ulama bodies to certify food permissible for Muslims to consume and that the establishment of the laboratory grants all halal bodies an opportunity to speak with one voice.
Higgins further noted that the laboratory will assist in improving South Africa’s ability to engage in science and technology internationally.
“[Tokeid biotech] is exactly what Africa and the world needs; where science is meeting the needs of Muslims,” he continued.