KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — The authorities must act to compel food outlets to display their halal or non-halal signs more prominently to protect Arab tourists ignorant of Malaysia’s cultural diversity, a Muslim consumer group said today.
According to the Malaysian Muslim Consumers’ Association (PPIM), regulation is needed to stem further “loss of faith” from those tourists who perceive Malaysia as an Islamic country where every food is halal.
“We ask local councils in this ethical campaign, to get outlets to state clearly whether they are only for non-Muslims or serve non-halal food,” PPIM president Datuk Nadzim Johan told reporters here.
PPIM’s call came after it received around 20 complaints from Middle East tourists in the last three months, who complained that some restaurants they went to served pork.
The group admitted that the tourists have been ignorant of halal laws in the country, and had willingly gone to outlets without halal signs before complaining.
Despite that, PPIM did not disclose the criteria needed for an outlet to display the non-halal sign, saying it would leave the details to the Tourism Ministry and local councils.
“In the meantime before a law is enacted, we ask non-halal outlets to display the sign themselves as a signal of their ethical business,” said Nadzim.
The group claimed Muslim tourists from the region believe that Malaysia, as a purported halal hub, only serves halal food much like other Muslim-dominant countries such as Saudi Arabia.
The tourists also believe that their Muslim brethrens “will take care of them” in Malaysia but their belief might be shattered when they feel that they have been “duped” by Malaysia’s halal status, it claimed.
PPIM also warned that should these tourists spread the news among themselves that they have been “deceived”, Malaysia’s tourism will be impacted, leading to a decline in the industry which would also affect non-Muslims in Malaysia.
“This is the best time for us to attract those tourists, especially with the unrest in the Middle East and how they are not accepted by the West,” added Nadzim, pointing out that it is Visit Malaysia Year this year.
Nearly 95,000 tourists came from Saudi Arabia last year out of 25.7 million tourists overall. Other Middle East countries with substantial tourist numbers included Iran, Iraq and the UAE.