According to JWT, a well-known American advertising agency, food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. In recent years there has come about a greater awareness, concern and demand for halal food among Muslims, especially those living in Western countries. The easy availability of halal food products in most cities, the entry of global food companies in the halal food business, global tourism and international halal food festivals in Malaysia, Dubai and other countries have made halal food a conspicuous feature of Muslim culture in large parts of the world. According to the Malaysia-based World Halal Forum, halal food accounts for nearly 17 per cent of the global food market and is one of the fastest-growing segments of the food market. According to the forum, the current global market for halal food is estimated at over $661.6 billion annually. Sales of halal food reached $641 billion in 2010, up from $587 billion in 2004. The halal food market in Asia is worth more than $418. In Africa, the halal food market is worth $1156 billion. In Europe, sales of halal food products touched nearly $70 billion in 2011. About three million tonnes of halal meat are consumed annually in Europe. Russia is one of the fastest-growing markets for halal food products. The country produced around 65,000 tonnes of halal food in 2011. The halal food market in the Americas is worth $16.7 billion. Since halal food is not available in some parts of the US and Canada, many Muslims turn to kosher. In the US an estimated 16% of sales in the $100 million kosher industry come from Muslim customers. In Australia/Oceania, the halal food market grew by 33.3 per cent between 2009 and 2010 and is currently estimated at $1.6 billion.
The growing worldwide demand for halal food has prompted global food giants like McDonald’s as well as supermarket chains in Europe and North America to enter the halal food segment. Britain’s biggest supermarket chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Somerfield have separate shelves for halal food products. Tesco launched halal products in 2004 and distributes halal chocolates in six of its stores in London. British pharmacy retailer Boots sells halal baby food. Nestle earns more from halal products than it does from organic food. Rotterdam Port, one of the world’s largest ports, has built a huge warehouse of halal products and is set to become “the halal gateway to Europe.” The Port of Rotterdam was officially designated as halal at the World Islamic Economic Forum.
In April 2007, when McDonald’s opened its first European restaurant with halal burgers and chicken nuggets on the menu in Southall in west London, sales rose dramatically. Halal chicken nuggets introduced by McDonald’s in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab populations in the US, are immensely popular with local Muslims. Wal-Mart now stocks halal food products in its US stores. Two of McDonald’s restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney offer halal meals. Global fast food giants such as Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, KFC and Subway are using halal meat in their products. KFC launched a halal-only menu in eight of its London outlets in 2009. All McDonald’s restaurants in Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and India are halal certified. In the UK, hundreds of outlets serving halal fried chicken, such as Chicken Cottage, have sprung up in recent years. Los Angeles has a Chinese Islamic restaurant and a Thai Islamic restaurant where only halal food is served. The Muslim population in France is around 6 million, the largest in Europe. French supermarkets such as Casino and Carrefour have launched a wide range of halal foods. A restaurant called McHalal has been serving halal burgers for years outside the French city of Lyon. A newly-opened fast-food restaurant in Paris called Clichy-sous-Bois offers Beurger King Muslim halal hamburgers and fries. The value of the halal food market in France was estimated at €17.6 billion in 2010. A Pakistani Muslim has opened a string of halal chicken sandwich stands in Britain and France. Solis, a Paris-based research organization, reckons that the Muslims of France will soon consume around €4.5 billion worth of halal foods each year. About one-quarter of this belongs to the category of fast food.
Switzerland is the largest producer of processed halal food in the world with annual sales of $3.5 billion. Swiss companies which produce halal food make sure that their products are tested, regularly checked and certified by Islamic experts. Nestle, the world’s largest food corporation with $94 billion in sales in 2007, adheres to halal food requirements in 75 of its 480 factories worldwide. For the past two years Nestle has eliminated pork, alcohol and blood from its production process in seven of its European factories, including a sausage plant in France, a Nescafe plant in Germany and a powdered milk plant in Spain. The Nestle factory at Wangen bei Olten produces more than 41,000 tonnes of freshly made dough a year, of which a substantial amount is of the halal variety. Most of the halal puff pastry is sold to France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population.
One of the most popular fast food items in Germany, as well as in Austria, is the doner kebab, first introduced by Turkish immigrants in Berlin in the early 1970s. There are nearly 15,500 doner kebab businesses across Germany, and the doner kebab business in the country is worth about €2.5 billion annually. It is estimated that there are over one thousand more doner kebab stands in Berlin than in Istanbul. Every day, more than 400 tonnes of doner kebab meat is produced in Germany. In most German cities, doner kebabs are more popular than hamburgers and sausages. The first ever doner kebab trade fair was held in Berlin in March 2010.
The Barlein-Denterlein family of Nuremberg in northern Bavaria in Germany has long been one of the biggest producers of doner kebab meat in the country. Though the members of the Barlein-Denterlein family live like other German families, relishing pork-made sausages and salami, they make sure that the animals are killed in their slaughterhouse in the town of Neustadt according to Islamic rituals. They employ Muslim butchers who say a short prayer before killing the animals with a sharp knife. Killing pigs is absolutely forbidden in their slaughterhouse. Nearly 95 per cent of the meat goes to doner kebab stands and Turkish supermarkets in Nuremberg and other German cities. Sausages (a mixture of minced pork and flavouring stuffed into a thin casing made from pig’s intestine) are extremely popular in Germany (where they are known as wurst) as well as in other countries. A German butcher, Stefan Voelker, has invented a halal variety of sausage, known as bratwurst. This is made completely from halal veal and is stuffed into a casing made of sheep’s intestine.
International halal food and trade festivals have significantly contributed to the growing popularity of halal food products. Since 2004 Malaysia has been organising the International Halal Showcase, the world’s largest international halal trade fair. The fair is regarded as the largest annual gathering of halal industry players in the effort to ease the sourcing and selling of global quality halal products and services. Global food giants such as Nestle, McDonald’s, Rotterdam Post and Tesco were also invited to participate in the fair. In May 2006 the first World Halal Forum was organised in Kuala Lumpur. China held a four-day international halal food festival on September 10-13, 2008 in the Ningxia Autonomous Region. The 2nd Halal Expo 2008 was held in Dubai from November 24 to 26. It was designed to provide a gateway to the expanding global halal market and a networking platform which will bring together halal associations, halal certification agencies and suppliers and buyers of halal products. Modern information and communication technologies have facilitated interaction and networking among the producers, promoters and consumers of halal food. The popular youth portal TouTube has several videos on halal food products.
Germany is home to some 4 million Muslims. German companies are slowly waking up to the rising popularity of halal food. Cologne hosted an exhibition showcasing the food products of more than 800 halal food producers in June 2009. In Gehlenberg, a sleepy village in northern Germany, the Meemken family business house produces a wide range of halal sausages and supplies some 100 tonnes of salami and other types of sausages each week to food retailers in Germany and other European countries.
Islamic finance, which is essentially premised on Islamic principles governing trade, banking, investment and all other types of financial transactions, is steadily gathering momentum across large parts of the world, including Europe, North America and Australasia. Islamic financial institutions eschew charging interest and investing in industries that involve prohibited items such as alcohol, gambling and pornography. They operate on the Islamic principle that reward and risk should be shared among all participants in a business or financial transaction. Islamic finance embraces a wide range of institutions, products and services, including Islamic banks, Islamic investment companies and banks, mutual funds, bonds and stocks, insurance, equities, and Islamic e-commerce. Islamic finance is no longer a niche business and is increasingly becoming a mainstream component of the global banking system. Currently, more than 500 Islamic financial institutions exist in over 90 countries across the world, with an asset holding size of $ 1.3 trillion, an increase of more than 150 per cent over five years. The global rating agency Standard and Poor’s estimates that the Islamic finance market worldwide will more than double in value over the next three years to reach more than $ 2 trillion. The Islamic finance industry continues to grow at an annual rate of 20 per cent. Iran holds the world’s largest level of Islamic financial assets valued at $235.3 billion. Seven out of ten Islamic banks in the world are Iranian. Malaysia and the states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) form the hub of the global Islamic finance network. Al-Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest Islamic financial institution, has $ 15 billion in deposits. Kuwait Finance House is one of the world’s largest Islamic banks. Islamic banks in Malaysia account for 24.2 per cent (69.5 billion ringgits) of the country’s total banking assets.
Islamic bonds (sukuk) are among the highest profile products of Islamic financial institutions. In 2007, the total value of sukuk outstanding globally totaled US$82.4 billion. Standard and Poor’s expects the sales of Islamic bonds to reach US$200 billion annually by 1015. The UAE has been the world’s foremost issuer of sukuk over the past ten years, contributing over 36 per cent of global sale value, followed by Malaysia at 32 per cent. At present, investments in Islamic financial products represent just about 1 per cent of the global financial market, but the segment has grown at some 15% annually in the past three years and was worth $1,000 billion in 2010. In the UK it has grown to more than £ 500 million.
Islamic financial transactions are generally mediated through the following instruments:
(i) Murabaha: A bank or financial institution buys a given commodity or asset and and sells it to a purchaser at a higher price on a deferred basis.
(ii) Mudaraba: A bank offers finances to traders or entrepreneurs, who do not contribute any capital, and the profits are shared between the contracting parties.
(iii) Musharaka: A bank offers finances to traders or entrepreneurs, who also contribute their share of the capital. Profits from the venture are then shared.
(iv) Ijara: An agreement whereby a bank gives an asset on lease to a client at a specific price for a stipulated period. At the end of the lease period, the bank may or may not allow the client to own the asset.
(v) Takaful: A form of Islamic insurance in which reward and risk are shared between the client and the insuring institution.
It goes without saying that financial institutions, businesses and entrepreneurs are primarily interested in making money. Sometimes, new, unforeseen avenues of making money and earning profits are discovered through fortuitous circumstances. Some years ago, car dealers in an American city noticed that sales of new cars accelerated when the interest rate on loans for new vehicles was reduced to zero. Later they discovered that a large proportion of the buyers was Muslim and that there was a positive correlation between the facility for zero interest and higher sales.
According to a report by Standard and Poor’s, Islamic bonds reached a record $51.2 billion in 2010, an increase of 34% from 2007. The value of Islamic bonds issued in the Gulf alone rose to 61% in 2010, with issuances valuing $7 billion in 2009-2010, compared to $4.3 billion in the previous year. By mid-February 2011, more than $16 billion worth had already been issued worldwide since the beginning of the year. Malaysia remains the key driving force in the sukuk market, accounting for nearly 78% or 39.8 billion of total issuances in 2010, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
In response to the growing worldwide demand among Muslims for Islamic financial products, a number of major international banks, including Citibank, HSBC, ABN AMRO, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, have begun to offer Islamic financial products. Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital and BNP Paribas are among the world’s top five issuers of Islamic bonds. All major banks in Britain now have Islamic divisions, and there are also five Islamic banks in the country. Investment bankers in the West are competing to create a range of new Islamic capital market products on a large scale. In 2003 HSBC Bank launched an “Islamic mortgage” scheme in Britain to provide loans for house purchase. A Texas-based oil and gas firm, East Cameron Partners, issued the first American sukuk (asset-based bonds) in 2006. In April 2007 the London Stock Exchange listed its maiden Islamic hedge funds.
In 2007 the International Capital Market Association and the International Monetary Fund agreed to develop standard contracts and common best practice for secondary trading of Islamic hedge funds and other Islamic instruments. A number of global banks, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital and BNP Paribas, have issued Islamic hedge funds. The increasing global salience of Islamic finance may be gauged from the decision of the Harvard Law School to sponsor the Islamic Finance Project. It had set up its Islamic Finance Project way back in 1994-95, followed by several other premier educational institutions worldwide. The Eighth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance was held on April 18-20, 2008 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Cass Business School in Britain offers a degree in Islamic finance. In 2008 Lancaster University Business School joined the Cass Business School and the School of Oriental and African Studies’ Centre for Financial and Management Studies in offering an optional module in Islamic finance as part of its postgraduate training. Since the global financial meltdown in 2008, Islamic financial products have also attracted the interest of conservative Christian investors. Sometime ago, the Pope’s official newsletter, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article praising the ethical concepts of Islamic banking and finance and encouraging western banks to adopt the rules of Islamic banking and finance to restore confidence amongst their clients during the economic crisis. Malaysia, a Muslim-dominated country, has more than 40% non-Muslim account holders in Islamic banks.
In Germany, banks and other financial institutions now evince a growing interest in Islamic investments and financial products. The Munich-based insurance giant Allianz and Deutsche Bank have set up Shariah-compliant funds and certificates, which are marketed in Muslim countries. Early next year, Germany’s first Islamic bank, Kuveyt Turk Beteiligungsbank, a subsidiary of a Turkish-Kuwaiti bank, will open in Mannheim in the western part of the country. Federal Financial Services Authority, known as BaFin, recently issued a limited license to the bank. There are plans to open branches of the bank in other German cities.
In recent years, financial transactions in some of the massive global purchases have been mediated through Islamic bonds. Islamic bonds worth about US$3.5 billion went into the financing of the purchase of the British Peninsular and Steam Navigation by the Dubai Port Authority in 2006. Islamic financial investment played a major role in the Ford Motor Company’s US$ 848 million sale of Aston-Martin to the Kuwait-based Islamic bank, Investment Dar in 2008. Caribou Coffee, the second-largest specialty coffee chain in the US after Starbucks, is owned by a Bahrain-based Islamic equity firm.
One of the sectors in which the demand for halal products and services is rapidly increasing is the hospitality industry. A recent study conducted by Dinar Standard, a US-based consultancy that tracks the Muslim lifestyle market, found that educated, well-heeled Muslims spent about €102 billion during their travels in 2011. This figure is expected to reach €156 by 2020.
A growing number of educated, well-to-do Muslim families now look out for a Muslim-friendly holiday package, including a hotel with alcohol-free dining areas, prayer rooms, halal food and private or segregated swimming pools. A seaside resort in the town of Port Dickson offers a Muslim-friendly holiday atmosphere. The luxury villas in the hotel complex have an arrow on the ceiling indicating the direction of the qibla. It serves only halal food, and alcohol is strictly forbidden. There are prayer rooms and one can ask for a copy of the Quran together with translations in English and French. The resort also offers special Ramadan packages.
Islamic Fashion Industry
There has been a significant spurt in the Islamic fashion industry across many parts of the world. Bloomberg, an American multinational media corporation, estimates that the global Islamic fashion market could be worth as much as $96 billion. Islamic fashion festivals, the Internet and Islamic fashion magazines have played a highly important role in the growing popularity of Islamic fashion. Malaysia’s Islamic fashion festival, started in 2006 with the slogan ‘Discover the Beauty of Modesty,’ has visited Abu Dhabi, Astana, Dubai, Kakarta, Monte Carlo, New York, Singapore, Bundung and London and has been a trend setter in the Islamic fashion industry. It was included, for the first time, in the Milan Fashion Week held in 2012.
Fashionable garments for men and women, inspired by Islamic traditions and cultural patterns, are now being designed by international designers in Europe. Muslim women in the Middle East generally don what are known as abayas: body-covering black robes, which are usually accompanied by headscarves. Now well-known international designers like Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, Jean Claude Jitrois, Blumarine and Alberta Feretti have undertaken a makeover of the abaya to cater to the tastes of rich clients in the Middle East.
A fashion show with models clad in Islamic gowns was held on June 25, 2009 at the George V Hotel in Paris, where a fairly wide variety of ready-to-wear versions of the abaya were showcased. The designer outfits are expected to go on sale in Saks stores in the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh in September this year and subsequently in Bahrain and Dubai.
Sharia-compliant Sportswear and Swimwear
Football or soccer is the world’s most popular game, played by over 250 million people in 200 countries. Though it is largely male-dominated, a fairly large number of women and girls around the world enthusiastically play the game. According to the International Federation for World Soccer (FIFA), the world football governing body, more than 29 million women and girls—and their numbers are constantly growing--play the game. In 2007 FIFA banned women wearing headscarves from playing football for safety reasons and because of rules that stipulate that religious or political symbols should not be allowed on pitch. The Iranian women’s football team had to forfeit a match against Jordan in June 2011 because they refused to remove their headscarf.
The ban on the wearing of headscarves on pitch has been contested by many Muslim and non-Muslim athletes, who have argued that the ban promotes inequality in the world’s most popular game and inhibits the potential for it in Muslim countries. The United Nations joined the calls for lifting the ban. At a meeting in London in March 2012, the IFAB agreed in principle to overturn the ban. In the midst of this controversy, a Dutch designer, Cindy van den Bremen, has designed a new, football-friendly hijab -- called “Capsters”-- that looks trendy and meets the requirements of safety. Capsters are basically a plastic wrapper of white fabric with some stitching and a Velcro closing. It requires no knots or pins to tie it around one’s head. It is made in stretchable materials so as to make it comfortable to wear. The Velcro fastening is designed in such a way that if an opponent grabs the hijab from behind, it will easily come off, thereby minimizing the risk of choking or strangulation.
A Lebanese Australian lady, Aheda Zanetti, has designed a swimsuit for Muslim women – called burqini – that meets the Islamic requirement for modesty. The suit covers the whole body except the face, hands and feet.
A Syrian firm, NewBoy Toys, has created Fulla—which has Middle Eastern features and wears a headscarf and a coat—as an alternative to the blonde Barbie doll made by an American toymaker.
Problematic Issues in the Halal Market
Though the global market for Sharia-compliant products and services has bright prospects, it is also fraught with certain ticklish problems and impediments. The report of the Economist Intelligence Unit identifies the absence of a universally agreed system of standardization and certification, and a lack of professional management, including that of convincing branding, as major stumbling blocks in the halal market. Halal certification is a formal endorsement by an accredited Islamic authority verifying that a given product is compliant with Islamic rules and regulations. Many countries have halal certification bodies. In Singapore, for example, halal certification is administered and regulated by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura). In Malaysia, the National Shariah Board looks after issues of certification and standardization of halal products. Bahrain has set up the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institution for the purpose of common international standards for Sharia-compliant products.
In early 2011, Muslim consumers in France were horrified to discover that a popular brand of halal-certified sausages made of poultry contained pork DNA. This and similar incidents highlight the need for adequate certification and transparency in marketing communications. In the face of the confusion and controversy surrounding the issue of certification, many Muslim consumers have become extremely cautious about what they buy and where they buy. Many of them prefer to patronize shops and stores that are owned by Muslims.
The Economist Report on the Sharia-Conscious Consumer
The Economist Intelligence Unit released a valuable report titled “The Sharia-Conscious Consumer” in March 2012. The report, commissioned by the Kuwait Finance House, is based on a global online survey of 398 C-level and senior executives. All respondents were either active in the market for Sharia-compliant goods and services or had an interest in participating in the industry in three years’ time. In order to complement the survey results, the Economist Intelligence Unit conducted in-depth interviews with a range of experts and senior executives. The report sought to determine the factors that have an impact on the demand for a broad range of Sharia-compliant products and services. It assesses the growing Muslim consumer market, consumption patterns across different regions of the world and the implications for business. The report notes that the prospects for Sharia-compliant products and services look remarkably bright. The salient features of the report are as follows.
- The Sharia-conscious consumer is an increasingly important segment across the world. More than half of the respondents in the survey said that the market for Sharia-compliant products and services is already significant for their business. Sixty-eight per cent of them said that the prospects for Sharia-compliant products and services over the next three years would be bright.
Over half (51%) of the respondents are currently enjoying annual growth in revenues of at least 5%, while 34 per cent are registering higher than 15% growth. Over 60 per cent of respondents foresaw at least 5% growth in three years, while 43 per cent envisaged growth in revenue higher than 15%.
- A set of factors are promoting growth in the Sharia marketplace. The majority (56%) of respondents considered the growing salience of Islamic precepts and growth in Muslim populations in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries as important drivers of demand for Sharia-compliant products and services.
- Three categories of regions are propelling the demand for Sharia-compliant products and services: (i) the Muslim majority countries (ii) “mixed culture” countries such as those in Southeast Asia (iii) non-Muslim countries such as those in North America and Western Europe. The fastest-growing demand for Sharia-compliant products and services is seen in the Muslim majority countries. Seventy per cent of the respondents said that the Arabian Gulf countries are witnessing the fastest-growing demand, followed by North Africa (36%0 and South Asia (34%).
- Halal food and Islamic finance constitute the mainstay of the Sharia-compliant sector. Respondents saw food and finance as having the fastest growth, both at present and over the next three years.
- More than 80 per cent of respondents agreed that labeling products as halal, which is an important part of the food industry, is highly desirable.
- There are barriers to the growth of the halal industry. Forty-four per cent of the respondents said that a lack of professional management and awareness on the part of the seller are holding business back. Almost as many respondents (42%) cited a lack of convincing branding for halal products as a significant impediment. Another problematic issue relates to standardization and certification of halal products.
- The demand for Islamic bonds or sukuk is expected to grow. Nearly 30 per cent of respondents said that they expected demands for sukuk to grow strongly. Islamic bonds are likely to grow in popularity as a means of financing projects, particularly around the Gulf region.
- A high proportion (39%) of respondents considered growing Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries as among the most important factors for acceleration in the demand for Sharia-compliant products and services.
- The values of honesty and integrity are crucial in promoting the demand for Sharia-compliant products and services. More than half (52%) of the respondents said that companies with a reputation for honesty and integrity have better prospects for the success and sustainability of their brands.
The growing worldwide popularity of Sharia-compliant products and services and the increasing involvement of global financial institutions and industries in the production and distribution of such products have highly significant implications for international businesses, for globalization, for Muslim entrepreneurs, NGOs and think-tanks, and for social science theorizing. First and foremost, the trend suggests beyond a shadow of doubt that Islamic ideals and precepts continue to remain a perennial source of inspiration and guidance for millions of Muslims around the world. Second, it is becoming increasingly evident that the resources and potential of globalization can be fruitfully harnessed by Muslims without making any compromises with their cherished values and traditions. The trend also belies the unfounded and prejudiced view that Muslims are inimical to modernity, technology and globalization. A large majority of people who are engaged in extending the frontiers of Sharia-compliant products and services are highly motivated, professionally qualified Muslims from the middle classes. It is an encouraging sign that they are actively and critically engaging with contemporary structures and processes.
Third, the growing demand for halal products brings into sharp focus the inseparable linkage between economics and ethics and affirms the Islamic view that the economic and moral domains are indeed indissociable and that, more importantly, the ethical and spiritual values should regulate all spheres of human life. Fourth, the trend provides a convincing refutation of the secularization thesis which held sway in Western sociology for nearly three decades from the 1960s to the early 1980s. In the early 1960s, social scientists and assorted intellectuals in the West declared that religion was doomed to decline and disintegration in the face of the massive forces unleashed by modernity. In an interview to The New York Times in 1968, the eminent American sociologist Peter Berger confidently asserted that ‘by the 21st century, religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture.’ This cynical prognostication was belied by the tidal waves of religious and ethnic resurgence that began to sweep across large parts of the world from the 1980s onwards. It has now become increasingly clear that religion continues to play a highly important and conspicuous role in the lives of people around the world.