Inside Malaysia’s fast-growing halal beauty market

Images posted on Instagram shows some of the "halal" beauty products of SimplySiti, founded by Malaysia’s "queen of entertainment", Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin. (Courtesy: Instagram)
Updated 04 February 2019

Inside Malaysia’s fast-growing halal beauty market

  • Malaysia wants to be global halal hub
  • Two-thirds of world’s Muslim population in Asia-Pacific

KUALA LUMPUR: The word halal is most commonly associated with food and drink. But in Malaysia demand for halal-certified products across all sectors — including personal care — is growing.

The southeast Asian country wants to be a global halal hub and, in 2017, the local halal industry contributed approximately 7.5 percent to Malaysia’s gross domestic product.

“Malaysia once again leads the Global Islamic Economy Indicator for the fifth year in a row,” Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in his opening address at World Halal Week last April. “This impressive lead reflects a robust Islamic economy ecosystem, with Malaysia enjoying a substantial lead in Islamic finance and halal food.”

The ecosystem includes banks to provide Islamic finance, the Health Ministry and the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to set the halal certification standard, and trade agencies such as Matrade to handle the business and marketing side.

Halal cosmetics must be free from alcohol, blood and parts or substances from animals that have not been slaughtered according to Islamic practices.

SimplySiti, founded by singer Siti Nurhaliza, offers cosmetic, fragrance and skincare products that are halal-certified.

Mainstream firms have also jumped on the halal bandwagon, such as Clara International, Johnson & Johnson, Silky Girl and Wipro Unza. Sunsilk claims it is the first haircare line in Malaysia for hijab-wearing women.

Accessibility has also improved, with products available in supermarkets and drugstore chains, as well as through online marketplaces such as PrettySuci and Aladdin Street. 

Some products even claim to be ablution-friendly, meaning water can penetrate the product to reach the skin and cleanse it. 

But some firms have yet to break into the market and not all Muslim consumers are aware of the availability and diversity of halal beauty and personal care products.

“I do not really check for the halal label because in Malaysia I assumed everything is halal,” 30-year-old Abir Abdul Rahman told Arab News, adding that most of her friends did not actively check for the halal label when purchasing makeup or skincare items.

Siti Nurul Hidayah Ishak, a 33-year-old lawyer, said she supported the idea of halal beauty products but did not know which ones were certified. 

“I do not particularly pay attention whether a product is certified halal or not. Nonetheless, I check the labels to ensure there are no non-halal ingredients in the products I purchase,” she told Arab News.

Two-thirds of the global Muslim population is in the Asia-Pacific region. The Muslim population is young and has good socio-economic prospects according to Pew Research.

Thomson Reuters estimates that Muslim consumers will account for $73 billion worth of spending on cosmetics by 2019, or 8.2 percent of the global expenditure.

In Malaysia, the total trade volume for personal care and cosmetics products was about $2.24 billion in 2015. Half of the demand was met by imports.

Some Muslim consumers in Malaysia were skeptical about the boom in halal-certified beauty products. 

Mohani Niza, 31, said she was more concerned about her products being vegetarian or cruelty free. 

“I have no grievance against halal beauty products,” she told Arab News. “But my suspicion is that the halal beauty industry is a marketing gimmick. It plays on the ignorance and insecurities of some Muslims who may be led to be believe that whatever product that doesn't have the halal label is automatically haram.”


Book Review: Rebuilding shattered Aleppo armed with faith and hope

Philip Mansel’s book “Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s great Merchant city,” has been updated and is also available in paperback. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 February 2019

Book Review: Rebuilding shattered Aleppo armed with faith and hope

BEIRUT: Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and once a model of coexistence, is now a mesh of rubble and shattered lives. 
Philip Mansel’s book “Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s great Merchant city,” has been updated and is also available in paperback.
An eminent specialist of the Levant, Mansel attempts in the first part of his book to explain how harmony gave way to an implacable cataclysm. In the second part, the author has carefully selected a collection of travel writings on Aleppo from the 16th century to the 21st century. 
The ruthless and pitiless destruction of Aleppo shows the vulnerability of cities. Mansel believes that cosmopolitanism, literally meaning cosmos (world) in a city (polis), is an elusive concept. When politics and economics go wrong, rules are broken, and anything can happen even in a city like Aleppo. 

The author focuses on Aleppo’s history since the Ottoman Empire. The people of Aleppo, angered by the Mamluk excessive taxation, welcomed their defeat by the Ottoman army. Aleppo remained loyal to the Ottoman rule for 400 years and became one of the most important trading centers in the Levant. 
Caravans from India, Iran, the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula passed through the city on their way to Iskenderun, Smyrna, and Constantinople. Already, in 1550, a French diplomat claimed that Aleppo was the most important commercial center of the Levant.
A century later, Aleppo was still trading with the Ottoman Empire and although its external trade with foreign countries was diminishing, its multiracial and multireligious population lived peacefully. Even during the French Mandate (1923-1946), the cosmopolitan population of Aleppo was united against the French.
Syria’s independence granted by France on Jan. 1, 1944, was followed by the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, triggering the departure of Aleppo’s Jewish population.
The subsequent establishment of the Assad regime caused a political and economic rift in the country, and particularly in Aleppo, with the affluent west and the impoverished east brutally attacked and decimated by Syrian and Russian armed forces with the help of Iranian soldiers, Lebanese and Kurdish militias.
While emigrants are preserving the memory of Aleppo in cities around the world, some inhabitants of East Aleppo are returning.
Destroyed but alive, destitute but armed with faith and hope, they embody the quality of those who have contributed to make Aleppo one of the most beautiful cities in the world. They are determined to rebuild knowing that their shattered lives remain the hardest to repair.