Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Musings Around Halal Co-Branding

Is being particular too much to ask as a consumer? Or is it a hidden right for them that comes with a hidden price tag? Is demanding for Halal products as faith safeguarding by the Muslims expose themselves to unreasonable costs? Safeguarding of faith much depends on each individual Muslims though Halal has been all along the common denominator. The question lies in how Halal is Halal, or in qualitative term Halalness.

In reality, there's no such thing towards the degree of Halal. Product A couldn't be more Halal that B. Pure and simple, it's either Halal or Haram or non permissible in the eyes of the syariah law.

The difference lies within the interpretation of each individual that is based upon their depth of knowledge in the Halal subject. Though Halal or Haram, by it's definition is widely known by the Muslims, adoption or acceptability may differ through difference in the school of thought or difference in their preferences or again, the level of knowledge they possess.

For the learned Muslims, their minimum acceptability level may be higher than the less informed. Then again, Muslims in various parts of the world may chose to discard certain Halal standards set by other Muslims in other geographical boundaries.

The difference in the school of thought revolves around the opinion or the consensus of the four great Imams in the contemporary Muslim world namely Hanafi, Shafie, Maliki and Hambali. These four Imam are regarded, by consensus, by their superiority in the Islamic knowledge, as the main reference in any Islamic jurisprudence.

Differing in opinion doesn't absolutely mean that Islamic teachings sway from the basic belief or the essence of basic ritual practices. The difference lies only on opinion on mundane affairs or implementation of certain practices that are adapted through difference in the geographical surroundings like climate, culture, resources etc.

As far as Halal is concerned, the biggest challenge faced by the standard developers is to get to an agreement of an acceptable common guidelines by all Muslim regardless of what school of thought they adhere to. However, consensus are being debated, discussed and refined through various forums at international level and some form of compromise has been reached without sacrificing each other's preferences or adherences.

While this is being worked out, the honchos of the international business community had gone quite far in the quality and Halal assurance program to garner the tremendous Halal market all over the world. Halal often been regarded as a powerful co-branding instrument and being adopted to niche the market especially the Middle East nations.

In Malaysia, the reality is the Muslim business community themselves have failed to clinch major deals and often insignificant issues are debated and blown out of proportion. Much time has been wasted as too many self acclaimed pundits wants to be champion in the Halal platform.

At one end, this is good to show the concern and awareness of the Halal issue but on the other hand this may not be healthy as most of them only focus on guidelines and setting their own goal posts and hoped everybody to rope in and thus earning their fair share in the Halal market as certifiers, consultants and auditors.

The fundamentals of the Halal market, that is to create more Muslim entreprenuers is left as the least priority sector.

Scores of forums being organised yearly, but it is just add to the bundles and bundles of cellulose that can only become feed to the recycling plants, countless business matching sessions which either turned sour or lacks follow-up as they prefer to work alone.

This is the plight of the Muslim businesses in the Halal market. Halal as an added confidence and a co-branding tool can't be fully exploited. Surprised? No more because this happens everyday.

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