Malaysia on December 19 urged international makers of halal foods, or acceptable under Islamic rules, to standardise guidelines in an effort to reach a larger market.
Hundreds of business leaders and policymakers from the halal food industry will hold a World Halal Forum in Kuala Lumpur in May next to discuss issues such as manufacturing and distribution, said organising committee chairman Khairy Jamaluddin.
Forum organisers said current certification standards for halal products vary among countries, sometimes confusing consumers and forcing producers to undergo repeated certification processes in nations with different regulations.
"We want to promote halal as a premium item...for confidence in the integrity of (an) entire food chain that is clean, that is safe, that is healthy," Khairy told reporters. A halal designation means a product complies with Islamic principles of hygiene and humane treatment of animals, and other rules involving the production processes.
Streamlined global halal standards must satisfy Muslim consumers whose main concerns are religious rules, and must attract non-Muslims who want an assurance of food products’ quality and safety, said Malaysia’s Halal Development Corp. Chief Executive Jamil Bidin.
"Harmonisation of standards is not there yet, so it will be nice if we can see that one day...just one standard that we can (all) follow," Jamil said. He said the global industry for halal products and services is estimated to be worth up to $2.1 trillion annually.
Hong Kong to Get First Woman-only Mosque
Hong Kong is likely to get its first woman-only mosque by next year, believed to be the only of its kind in Asia outside of China, reports said on December 13.
The mosque would cost an estimated 500,000 Hong Kong dollars (US $64,000) and would be targeted at Indonesian maids working in the city.
"Women do not have enough places for Muslim prayers in Hong Kong," said Titien Suprupti, chairperson of the Wanodya Indonesian Club, adding, "some are praying in gardens and open spaces, and we feel this is not suitable. It is crowded, noisy and uncomfortable."
According to Indonesian maids, the city’s four existing mosques did not meet their needs. Also, mosques tend to be dominated by men even though women and men pray separately.The Wanodya club, along with other groups, plans to set up the mosque some time next year.
Political Turmoil in Bangladesh
The recent resignation of four advisers to the caretaker government, the first such incident in the history of caretaker governments, over President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed’s unilateral actions on election issues has further complicated the political turmoil in Bangladesh.
"It’s a serious blow to the present caretaker government and has irreparably challenged its credibility," Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, a noted economist and former adviser to two caretaker governments in 1996 and 2001, reportedly said.
He asserted that replacing the resigned advisers with another set of advisers will hardly repair the credibility gap. In the first such incident in the history of caretaker governments, Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, Major General (Retd.) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, Shafi Sami and Sultana Kamal sent their resignation letters to the president on December 11, 42 days after they were sworn in the midst of an unstable political situation.
The advisers took the decision following Iajuddin’s unwillingness to reconstitute the Election Commission (EC) and his unilateral decision on army deployment in the country.
"I have resigned as I could not work for creating an atmosphere for a free and fair election," said Khan.