Malaysia eyes 2020 Olympic Games to boost halal exports to Japan

Malaysia hopes to ride on next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo to boost its food exports to Japan. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 26 January 2019

Malaysia eyes 2020 Olympic Games to boost halal exports to Japan

  • A three-day exhibition was launched in Kuala Lumpur last week to secure contracts to supply halal products for the games next year
  • Though a Muslim-majority nation, Malaysia lags behind Buddhist-majority Thailand as Southeast Asia’s largest halal exporter

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is targeting the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as an opportunity to increase its exports of halal food to the global market.

On Thursday, a three-day exhibition titled “Malaysia to Japan for 2020 Olympics” was launched in Kuala Lumpur to secure contracts worth up to $300 million supplying halal products for the games next year.

Keith Wong, a member of the Tokyo Olympics Halal Food Standards Committee, told Arab News: “Malaysia sees the Olympic Games as the stepping stone to the global market. Japan is not just one of the largest markets in the world, but also represents quality. Many companies want to be associated with that.”

More than 300 local businesses will display halal-certified food products and services, from adapted Japanese dishes to cosmetics and health products. Islamic financial service providers and transportation firms specializing in maintaining halal standards through supply chains also attended the event.

International demand for halal produce has grown exponentially in recent years, due not only to increasing demand from expanding Muslim populations, but also non-Muslim consumers of high-quality products, reassured by the standards halal goods must meet.

Wong said that, though the Muslim population in Japan is small, the Tokyo Olympics could see 5 million Muslim tourists visit the country. 

However, for any effort to expand in Japan to succeed, it was important for halal producers to see the Olympics not as a one-off opportunity, but a chance to break new ground for the long-term.

“If you want to go in, you have to meet Japanese standards,” he said. “The Japanese love curry from Nepal and Bangladesh, and never think of it as ‘halal curry.’ Why can’t Malaysian food be the same?”

Though a Muslim-majority nation, Malaysia lags behind Buddhist-majority Thailand as Southeast Asia’s largest halal exporter. This, Wong believes, is because of Bangkok’s more successful export strategy, that Malaysia has yet to emulate.

“Thailand trains its chefs well, and sends them all over the world. As a result, Thai food is very popular. Malaysia’s export strategy is too vague and not yet detailed enough,” he said.

The Malaysian government, though, hope the exhibition, also attended by large Japanese firms such as Take-One Co. Ltd., which operates FamilyMart, Ohga Pharmacy and Hayabusa International, could generate $12 million in sales over the three-day session.


French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

Updated 36 min 19 sec ago

French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

  • President Emmanuel Macron: Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country
  • French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom

PARIS: French police on Monday launched a series of raids targeting extremist networks three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The operation came a day after tens of thousands of people took part in rallies countrywide to honor history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.

Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said “dozens” of individuals were being probed for suspected radicalization.

While they were “not necessarily linked” to Paty’s killing, the government aimed to send a message that there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic,” he added.

Darmanin said the government would also tighten the noose on NGOs with suspected links to extremist networks.

“Fear is about to change sides,” President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of key ministers Sunday to discuss a response to the attack.

“Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country,” he said.

Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Paris.

A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, an 18-year-old Chechen man Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.

The grisly killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Paty had shown his civics class one of the controversial cartoons.

According to his school, Paty had given Muslim children the option to leave the classroom before he showed the cartoon in a lesson on free speech, saying he did not want their feelings hurt.

The lesson sparked a furor nonetheless and Paty and his school received threats.

Eleven people are being held over his murder, including a known radical and the father of one of Paty’s pupils, who had launched an online campaign against the teacher.

Darmanin accused the two men of having issued a “fatwa” against Paty, using the term for an edict that was famously used to describe the 1989 death sentence handed down against writer Salman Rushdie by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Anzorov’s family arrived in France from the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya when he was six.

Locals in the Normandy town of Evreux where he lived described him as a loner who had become increasingly religious in recent years.

Police are trying to establish whether he acted alone.

Four members of his family are being held for questioning.

In scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, when over a million people marched through Paris to defend press freedom, people again gathered at the central Place de la Republique on Sunday to express their horror over Paty’s death.

Some in the crowd chanted “I am Samuel,” echoing the 2015 “I am Charlie” rallying call for free speech.

French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom.

The government has vowed to step up security at schools when pupils return after half-term.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who laid a wreath outside Paty’s school on Monday, called for “wartime legislation” to combat the terror threat.

Le Pen, who has announced she will make a third bid for the French presidency in 2022, called for an “immediate” moratorium on immigration and for all foreigners on terror watchlists to be deported.

Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings.

The magazine republished the cartoons in the run-up to the trial, and last month a young Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the publication’s old office.