Jamil Bidin, chief executive of the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC), the Malaysian government agency charged with developing and promoting Malaysia’s halal standards and boosting trade through the country’s expertise in this field, told FoodNavigator-Asia that it is currently safer on the whole for Muslims if there are no recognised halal alternatives to regular medicines.
Chronic vs. complementary
“In healthcare, the situation varies in the sense that, when you talk about chronic illnesses, there is no halal requirement because it’s a course a life and death situation. If you need to take medicine, the halal agenda is not here, and even in Malaysia we don’t certify medicine as halal or non-halal,” Bidin said.
“There are no halal-certified medicines and vaccines in the world—there may already be some that are halal, but they haven’t been certified yet. But if a Muslim has access to a halal-certified vaccine, then he must use it, and that would confuse the system,” Bidin continued.
By this, the HDC chief means that Muslims are not compelled by Islam to seek out halal medicines when life is in danger. However, the fact that such a treatment might be available puts greater pressure on the patient when swift action would be more appropriate.
Conversely, Bidin said that Muslim consumers must always look for the many vitamins, health supplements and natural remedies that carry halal certification if their aim is to boost their health and treat non-chronic conditions.
A possibility for the future
However, he hasn’t ruled out bringing medicines and vaccines under the HDC’s certification protocols, and by doing so it would be be the first registration body in the world to include medicinal applications.
“If we can create a halal vaccine, then it can also be translated into commercial benefits. You have so many Muslims around the world, and that’s a big marketplace. You can see this from the religious perspective and the market perspective. This is what we are planning for the future,” Bidin said.
“When we talk about medicine, we don’t want to create a panic situation. If we start to tell the world that Muslims must go for halal medicine, we could create a panic whereby some Muslims might think that they can only go for halal medicine, and that could be catastrophic. They might not understand that there are alternatives.
“That’s why we want to develop this stage by stage in the sense that we want to create alternatives first. Once we have that, we will go out there and make an announcement.”