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Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Page: 8257

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (12:45): I rise today to raise a matter involving a man claiming to be an international business leader but who has demonstrated through his words and actions that he is a person who clearly has limited—if any—association with the truth. I am talking about a gentleman by the name of Mr Mohamed El-Mouelhy, who is head of the Halal Certification Authority. My attention was first drawn to Mr El-Mouelhy's intentions by his Facebook page in which he made the following comment about me: 'Mr Cory Bernardi is a well-known bigot and Muslim hater. A couple of years ago when halal certification became an issue for the bigots, Bernardi sent me an unsolicited, offensive and racist email. I did not dignify him with a response then, and I am not about to dignify him now.'

Having never heard of this man before, and establishing I had never had any previous contact with him, I was perplexed as to his claim. Upon further review of his distasteful, bigoted and racist social media rantings, I actually thought this was a grubby parody account. Imagine my shock when I discovered that Mr El-Mouelhy was actually a real person claiming to be a respected businessman. I contacted him through his business email asking for evidence of his defamatory claim that I had sent him an unsolicited, offensive and racist email. He responded by not providing any evidence at all and refusing to engage in any further conversation.

Accordingly, I am completely at peace in referring to Mr El-Mouelhy's claims about me as completely false, and I can only consider him to be a liar. This prompted me to conduct a further review of Mr El-Mouelhy's public statements. Clearly, he is no stranger to the limelight. With an increasing interest in halal certification, and as the head of the Halal Certification Authority, he has taken every opportunity to have his views heard. He pops up in TV interviews, on radio and in print. He is constantly offering opinions that halal certification has made him a multimillionaire. In fact, you could probably think that he is the quasi-face of halal certification in Australia. Yet, when given his opportunity to appear before a Senate committee about this precise topic, he refused to appear. I am guessing that the requirement to tell the truth in giving evidence before a Senate committee was enough to scare him off.

But that does not stop him from abusing the Senate inquiry. On Facebook he called the inquiry an 'exercise in bigotry' and a 'sham'. He labelled as bigots all those who called for the inquiry and all the senators who voted for it. He insulted almost every submission to the enquiry and he claimed, quite incorrectly, that the inquiry wants to destroy the halal certification industry. Amid proclamations that the government had 'shut down' the inquiry—again, another lie—he boasted further about the money he makes and mentioned alleged corruption within halal certification in Indonesia.

A large part of me wonders whether we should take anything he says seriously. In addition to defaming me on the internet, Mr El-Mouelhy is happy to abuse many others. He insults the whole of New South Wales as a 'bigots dreamland'. He describes Queensland as a 'bigots hinterland' and the ACT as 'foil hat territory'. I will not list them all now, but he said the same about virtually every state and territory in Australia. On Facebook, he doles out opinions and insults in equal measure. I will characterise just a few of these sorts of abuses today. Next to photos of pork rectums for sale, he writes: 'Favourite food for bigots. They are what they eat!' He accuses the Reverend Fred Nile of watching pornography on his computer and reading 'free porn mags'. In a comment to someone who posted on his page he wrote: 'You are a jealous bogan … die in your rage, bigot'. In another comment about someone on his page he said: 'This guy must have been to a Catholic school; he is besotted with paedophilia.' When asked about animal suffering, he said: 'I don't mind seeing you suffer.' He labels those who do not agree with him as 'bogans, bigots, religiously intolerant, rednecks and hicks'. His comments about a photo of short-cut bacon, where the word 'cut' has been misspelled through the addition of an additional consonant is simply repulsive, and it would be unparliamentary for me to repeat it here.

Such comments do not reflect well on any Australian businessman, especially someone who claims to be as successful and prominent as Mr El-Mouelhy. I have lost count of the number of times he has labelled me an Islamophobe, a bigot or a Muslim hater. Frankly, I put no stock in his insults against me. It is not the first time someone has called me names—and, coming from someone like him, I wear it as a badge of honour.

But the telling thing about all these online rantings and arrogant insults is what they tell us about the character of Mohamed El-Mouelhy. He is willing to spend a significant amount of time abusing people on social media and peddling lies in the public domain. And, by his own admission, he has been involved in corrupt dealings—bribery, to be specific—to attempt to gain access to the Indonesian halal food market. On ABC's Four Corners he was asked whether the $28,000 he spent on a visit to Australia by Indonesian halal officials was, in his mind, a bribe. This is what he said:

In my mind … as an after fact, yes, it is a bribe.

Why would anyone want to do business with a corrupt businessman? But, according to Mr El-Mouelhy himself, business is booming. He arrogantly talks about how much money he makes from the halal certification industry. On Today Tonight he said it had made him a millionaire. On Four Corners he said that everything he touches turns to gold. His business website claims that it has an '80 per cent market share of halal certification in Australia'—something which I have seen no evidence of, but that is what he claims.

Yet beneath these dodgy boasts there are many questions to be answered. He portrays himself and his business as an Islamic body or authority. The name alone—Halal Certification Authority—implies that it is some sort of peak community representative organisation. It even has a '.org' domain name instead of the usual '.com'. But is it really an Islamic body or authority? Is it really a not-for-profit organisation as suggested by the domain name? As far as I can tell it is neither. It is simply a private business formed to make money for Mr El-Mouelhy through any means possible.

Descriptions of his company, on various websites, claim the Halal Certification Authority 'is the most authoritative national Islamic body on the application of Islamic dietary laws' and it is an 'Islamic body appointed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, AQIS, according to federal legislation'. Mr El-Mouelhy is not an imam or Islamic religious leader, so I do not know on what basis he makes the claim of being a credible authority. And AQIS does not appoint Islamic certifiers. The certifiers apply to AQIS to gain approval to certify certain products for export. Further, El-Mouelhy boasts on Facebook that `Sharia rules' and is associated with another organisation that includes a special religious or sharia subcommittee.

Despite these statements and associations, El-Mouelhy also denies the existence of sharia or Islamic law. On 11 Feb 2015, during an interview on SBS, El-Mouelhy stated—in relation to a court case—'The defendants have said I am actually working to install sharia law—whatever that is—in Australia.' On 18 March 2015, during an interview on the ABC's The Drum program, El-Mouelhy claimed: 'There is no such thing in Islam called sharia law, by the way.' They are just more contradictions by a man unwilling to be confined by the truth.

Alarmingly, El-Mouelhy also boasts about contributing to the global Islamic charity Human Appeal International, HAI, an organisation that has been banned in Israel, since 2008, because it channels funds to Hamas and has links to Hezbollah. Mr El-Mouelhy claims he knows of no links from HAI to Hamas, but a quick internet search reveals the HAI logo in use at Hamas ceremonies. Hamas, I remind the Senate, has been listed by the United Nations as a terror group since 2001. In 1996 a CIA report said HAI was used as a conduit to fund terrorism. HAI also sponsored two visits to Australia by a bloke named Tareq Al-Suwaidan, a man banned from the US and Belgium for his violent anti-Semitism. And this is the charity that Mr El-Mouelhy chooses to support.

In short, based on his words and actions, I consider Mr El-Mouelhy to be an untrustworthy person. In fact, he does a great disservice to the Muslim community and the halal certification industry. During evidence to the committee on halal certification, one witness described the shonks and con men operating within the industry and endorsed calls for reform. In my opinion, Mr El-Mouelhy is the embodiment of such a description. I know he has made false statements about me and I know he has made admissions to being involved in corrupt practices. On that evidence alone, El-Mouelhy must be considered one of the halal industry shonks and con men that no reputable organisation should have anything to do with.