MalaysiaΓÇÖs halal crisis

IN Malaysia today, halal is an important part of life for the majority-Muslim population. Internationally, at a time when conventional markets are reaching a saturation point, Muslim consumers are becoming much more concerned about Islamic issues in the way they conduct their daily lives.

Halal-related markets are some of the fastest-growing consumer segments today. These include food and beverages, medicines, pharmaceuticals, health foods, cosmetics, fashion, tourism, recreation, finance, and even hardware. There are numerous estimates of the size of the global halal market, averaging out to between US$4.5 trillion and US$5 trillion per annum.

Even as Muslims lean towards Western-style consumption and lifestyles, they are embracing the Islamic faith with much more reverence than previous generations who had to struggle to survive in a time when halal choices werenΓÇÖt widely available. The Muslim obligation under tawhid (the relationship between people and God) is something that enters everyday life, and as a consequence, Muslim consumers are seeking products and services that are shariah-compliant (the path shown by God).

Central to shariah are the concepts of halal and toyyibaan, which govern the economic activities of people in the production and consumption of wealth, where certain means of gaining a livelihood are declared unlawful. Halal means lawful or permitted for Muslims, a concept much wider than just food issues. It concerns whether operational procedures are undertaken according to shariah.

Toyyibaan is a much wider concept than halal, meaning good, clean, wholesome, healthy, non-exploitative and ethical within the Islamic concept. Under toyyibaan, food and other products must be clean, safe, nutritious, healthy and balanced. Toyyibaan also means that production must be undertaken within a sustainable regime of practices, where business should be undertaken with good intentions. Therefore, in the strict sense of these concepts, toyyibaan influences management practices, human resources policies, business ethics, raw material selection, manufacturing methods and community relations.

The concept of halal stipulates a number of ingredients that Muslims cannot consume in any form.

These include:

* Pork and pork byproducts;

* Animals that are dead or dying prior to slaughter;

* Blood and blood byproducts;

* Carnivorous animals;

* Birds of prey;

* Land animals without ears;

* Alcohol, and;

* Animals killed in the name of anything other than Allah.

The increasing internationalisation of the market means many new product choices are available for consumers by companies and service providers that consumers donΓÇÖt know and have yet to trust. Many products utilise animal-based formulations, and these creatures may or may not have been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. In addition, through advances in biotechnology, new ingredients are being formulated into products whose halal status is unknown.

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