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The world of Halal extends beyond meat

“The whole world is becoming Halal,” Dar Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin Al Turki, Secretary General of the World Muslim League said at the first Islamic symposium on ‘Halal Slaughtering: Challenges and Solutions,’ at the Langham Hotel in Auckland on November 28, 2013.

With the global market for Halal meat alone estimated at US$ 600 billion per annum, with the amount expected to double in less than 15 years, Halal is becoming a byword with increasing acceptance among exporters and importers.

Halal is not confined to meat or manufactured products. Services such as halal holidays are booming, too. Crescent Tours, a London-based travel agent, books clients into hotels in Turkey that have separate swimming pools for men and women, no-alcohol policies and halal restaurants, and rents out private holiday villas with high walls. As founder-director Elnur Seyidli said, “It is more relaxing because it fits with their sensibilities.”

Other more austere agencies offer holidays with no music, or trips that include tours of religious sites. Mr Seyidli said that most of his customers are moderate professionals who want “a leisure holiday with morals.” His offerings attract conservative Christians too.

Stretching the book

Other entrepreneurs spy profits in the religious injunction to behave ethically. Wardah, an Indonesian firm, sells make-up, which counts as halal because it is not tested on animals. Saffron Road Foods, an American business with products ranging from cooking sauces to frozen hors d’oeuvres, markets itself primarily as offering healthy and ethical options.

Halal comes second, reducing the danger of being seen to pander to Muslim tastes, which has caused problems elsewhere. The Quick hamburger chain in France drew flak when in 2010 it considered removing pork from its menu.

The benefits may outweigh the potential backlash. Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and other meat exporters have long profited from the halal trade. Malaysia was the first country to realise the broader potential. In 2011 its halal exports—including aspirin, chocolate and mouthwash—amounted to 35.4 billion ringgits (US$11.57 billion), or 5% of total exports. Dubai is trying to become the hub for Islamic trade in the Middle East. In 2008 it launched an annual halal trade fair featuring products ranging from halal cosmetics to Islamic loans.

Trends used to be set by majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and South-East Asia. Now they come as much from the Muslim minorities in the West. Nestlé, which decades ago was one of the first Western firms to spy the potential, has since the 1980s made 20% of its factories fully halal, for products including Kit Kats and Nescafé. It uses Malaysia as a manufacturing hub. Gohalal.co.uk is one of many online directories allowing Muslims in Britain to search for restaurants that comply with sharia law. Joohi Tahir of Crescent Foods, a Chicago-based chicken producer, said that its mainstream American superstores are increasingly placing orders for its halal poultry.

Walmart started to stock the company’s products in 2008 and today offers them in 77 stores. Halal food is served in a growing number of fast-food chains, including McDonald’s Restaurants.

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