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Thursday, 5 November 2009

World halal standard plausible, Malaysia says

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Malaysia hopes that Muslim countries can agree on which goods and products are halal, or acceptable to Muslims, a move that would boost the $2 trillion industry, although politics and interpretation of islamic law may complicate the task.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is working on a single standard to be applied in its 57 member countries.

Agreement to regulate the halal industry, which ranges from financial institutions to cosmetics and meat, would help trade and speed up the certification for makers of halal products.

"Malaysia's halal certification is recognised worldwide so perhaps we can play an important role in creating a global standard," Malaysia's religious affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom said in an interview on Thursday. "We need a halal certification that everyone can use easily."

The halal industry is based on a belief that Muslims should eat food and use goods such as cosmetics that are 'halalan toyibban', which means permissible and wholesome.

But Muslim jurists do not always agree on what is halal. Islam prohibits the consumption of pork and prescribes how animals must be slaughtered, but there has been debate on the acceptability of non-alcoholic beer, collagen and vinegar.

Rules are interpreted and enforced more strictly in some countries. Sudanese authorities have hauled up women for wearing trousers and a Malaysian woman has been sentenced to a beating for drinking beer, practices which are acceptable in some Muslim countries.

Jamil said Muslims generally agree on what is halal although some issues should be left to countries to decide. "In general, we don't have many differences in terms of products and food."

Some see politics as an obstacle as OIC members range from wealthy Saudi Arabia to poor countries like Somalia.

"Disagreement within the OIC is due to certain interests of certain countries," said Mohamad Akram Laldin, a religious scholar and legal expert. "Some people might have their own agenda and that might be the hindrance. They might want to push certain things from their view and not agree with others' views."
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