KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 ― Consumers will not be confused by the new halal logo only for Muslim-made products, the Malaysia International Institute of Islamic Cooperation (Ikiam) claimed when saying it will give them more choice.
Ikiam secretary Mohd Shamsuddin Damin also said the non-governmental organisation plans to issue the new logo to Muslim companies for free.
“Nobody will be confused, it's a straightforward co-existing branding exercise,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted this week, adding that Ikiam will explain the new logo to the public that may be launched as early as next January.
Not one, but two new logos
Currently, the halal logo and certification are under the purview of the the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim). The department has said Ikiam’s plan is illegal without its endorsement.
Despite this, Mohd Shamsuddin said Ikiam will introduce two different logos: one to denote that a product is Muslim-made and another to certify a product as a Muslim-made and halal.
The first category of “Muslim product” is aimed at giving a boost to small Muslim businesses that have yet to obtain Jakim's halal certification, especially cottage industries that would not be able to meet the latter's requirements yet, he said.
Applying for Jakim's halal certification may also take a long time and be too costly for these small-time Muslim operators, Mohd Shamsuddin asserted.
“For example, a small company that produces sambal tumis, so they bottle it, the production is minimal, maybe 50 bottles a day, family operation, for the beginning they need some process, some support before they can go for halal certification, because turnover of the financial year may not even be enough to pay for Jakim certification cost,” he explained, adding that it may cost thousands to engage consultants.
For Muslim businesses operating out of their own houses, they would be unable to get Jakim's halal certification since it bars homemade products and requires production to be done at an independent premise, he said.
“We will have our people to assist them in business development so they have the capability to apply for Jakim's halal certification,” he said when describing Ikiam's ultimate aim to assist in the obtaining of official recognition of Muslim-made products' halal status.
Demand for Muslim-made products
The second category of “Halal Muslim Product” is for Muslim businesses that have already obtained Jakim's halal certification, with the additional certification of the product's origin aimed at tapping into the demand for Muslim-made products, he said.
“Now there is a trend locally and internationally ― Muslims and non-Muslims are looking for halal products produced by Muslims, so we want to capture that particular market,” he said.
According to Mohd Shamsuddin, the demand by Muslims and non-Muslims alike for Muslim-made halal products is due to the view that they are “more clean and better and higher quality”, as Muslims would have additional pre-production rituals such as wuduk (ablution) to cleanse themselves and recital of prayers.
Although Jakim's halal logo certifies products that are permissible for Muslims to use and consume, he said the requirements are “general” and include good manufacturing practices, but without mandating the additional Muslim rituals.
“It's nothing about discrimination and segregation. It's a free enterprise, product choices, got different market segment, nothing racial or segregation about it,” he said.
On top of the rituals, he also hoped the Muslims' belief in the concept of pahala or rewards for good deeds would ensure that they do not use non-halal ingredients for a halal product.
He explained that Ikiam wants to instill in Muslim owners the principle that they have to do right in the eyes of both people and Allah when they serve the public, noting this as the most effective monitoring method.
He declined to go into specifics now on whether Ikiam's verification process would include an inspection of a company's halal credentials under the second category, but said those companies that have long been recognised as Muslim producers by Ikiam under the first category would be easily fast-tracked under the second category upon receiving Jakim's certification.
Mohd Shamsuddin said Ikiam's two logos are open to all Muslim entrepreneurs who will be registered in and monitored through its database, but declined to specify the conditions to qualify as a Muslim business which he said would be up for further discussion.
He said Ikiam will have volunteers carrying out inspections, adding that the non-profit body intends to develop its procedures and technical capabilities to either be as good as or to surpass Jakim's own standards.
While Jakim will be involved in the second category, Ikiam's logos will be “self-regulated” by its own board of advisers to be headed by an Islamic scholar and to be composed of those with religious expertise and others such as food scientists, production engineers and also those with biotechnology background, he said.
When asked if Ikiam will be relying on public donations or government grants in order to give out the free logos and free assistance to Muslim companies, Mohd Shamsuddin said this would be discussed in a roundtable discussion to be held within the next few weeks with Jakim, the Halal Industry Development Corporation and others.
He gave his reassurance that Ikiam would find its own resources in order to give free logos and free consultation services for small Muslim start-ups seeking to get Jakim's halal certification, expressing hope that the Ikiam scheme would become self-sustaining when companies find success and contribute part of their profits to help other small Muslim businesses.
“Because there is an element in Islam, wakaf (endowment), so we will definitely develop this principle within these companies, so technically they will assist other people once they are successful,” he said.
He said the 12-year-old Ikiam had spent the past 10 years helping small entrepreneurs to promote their businesses, noting that most of its 200 to 300 active members are entrepreneurs themselves.
Those under the first category would receive marketing advice and references to retailers and be matched to customers to help their business grow, while those under the second category would also be promoted through various avenues such as international exhibitions and trade fairs, he confirmed.
Moving to business
Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) chairman Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin, who first announced last week the controversial new logo by Ikiam to distinguish Muslim-made halal products, told Malay Mail Online that the recognition would be given only to companies that are 100 per cent owned by Muslims.
Zahidi, who is also Ikiam chairman, clarified that the NGO is the body that is actually producing the new logo, and not Risda which was merely working together with it and in need of such recognition for its smallholders.
He said most of Risda smallholders ― who will be the first to join Ikiam's scheme ― are both Muslim and Bumiputera, adding that the government has already provided RM14 million in grants for 11,700 smallholders to start up enterprises to lift their living standards.
Zahidi highlighted the need for the new logos with the potential access by halal producers to a purported 700-million-strong population of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member nations and said that even some non-Muslims prefer Muslim-made products.
Asserting that there would be no confusion between Ikiam's additional logo and Jakim’s own, Zahidi said the Islamic economic foundation's new logo to denote a product's Muslim-made origin will cater to some Muslims that are “particular” about their consumption choices due to religious reasons.
Unlike other Muslims who are less particular and would eat in pork-free outlets that did not have official halal certification, some Muslims would remain concerned over whether ingredients that are syubhah or not of verified halal status are used for halal products by non-Muslim companies, he explained.
He gave the scenario of a company using a halal-certified chicken supplier to successfully obtain halal certification from Jakim but which later switches to a cheaper chicken supplier without halal recognition, claiming that this may escape scrutiny as post-certification inspections and enforcement allegedly carried out by the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism that may be short-staffed instead of Jakim.