Thanks to strong cultural affinity, Muslim tourists have long chosen Malaysia, its pristine beaches, broad sidewalks and vast malls as a holiday destination. However today, this Southeast Asian country, where Muslims make up about 60 per cent of the population, is gaining recognition in yet another field in sustaining its ‘visitor dividend’.
The country is taking giant strides in coming into the radar of overseas patients on the basis of four pillars: lower costs, shorter recovery time and high quality healthcare. However, what is the fourth?
Halal medical treatment solutions!
What exactly is halal?
According to icv.org.au, halal is an Arabic word that broadly translates to ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’.
In reference to food, it is the dietary standards, as prescribed in the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture). The opposite of halal is haram, which means ‘unlawful’ or ‘prohibited’. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life. These terms are commonly used in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and food ingredients, etc.
In general, all foods are considered halal except the following (which are haram): alcoholic drinks and intoxicants, non-halal animal fat, enzymes (expect microbial enzymes), gelatine (fish gelatine is halal) and pork, bacon/ham (and anything from pigs), etc. Importantly, the preparation of fish or seafood or any meat products, etc., should not include alcohol (i.e. batter or wine, or anything considered haram).
Islam is not only a religion but a way of life with protocols, rules and manners governing every facet of life. In this context, halal is a guided approach that could enable anyone, including non-Muslims, to live a life based on time-tested codes and rules.
Malaysia: At the forefront of the halal revolution
Malaysia is strategically pursuing a larger share of the Muslim market through providing halal treatment solutions, which exclude products forbidden under Islamic law, such as those derived from pork.
Malaysian hospitals are gaining ground in implementing Shariah-compliant medical tourism that has been designed to provide Muslim patients and their families not only with halal foods and facilities such as prayer rooms, but comprehensive medical treatment solutions that abides by Islamic law and care and accommodations that uphold Muslim values.
Though Islam permits the consumption of non-halal ingredients in matters of life and death, in the true spirit of providing halal treatment, hospital pharmacies in Malaysia inform patients of products that are gelatin- and porcine-free. This includes offering the drug Dhamotil as a halal option for diarrhoea, instead of the commonly used Imodium.Hospitals are also using sutures manufactured by a local firm made from lambs slaughtered under Islamic law.
It is no surprise then that Malaysia’s concerted efforts in adhering to the tenets of the halal framework were recognised when the country ranked as the top destination in the world within the Muslim tourism market, when it received the prestigious ‘IMTJ Medical Travel Destination of the Year Award’ for 2015, awarded by GMTI.
Furthermore, GMTIestimates that by 2020, there will be 150 million Muslim travellers spending USD 200 billion. In 2014, research indicated that 108 million Muslim travellers spent close to USD 145 billion. It is no surprise then that the Muslim tourism market is currently considered to be the fastest-growing in the world and Malaysia is at the forefront of capturing a larger slice of this emerging market.
Malaysia: Advanced halal for responsible healing
Malaysia is relentlessly driving the halal revolution and is more firmly positioning itself in responsible healing.
Consider the fact that work is underway in the country to produce the world’s first halal vaccines for meningitis and hepatitis. The target would be Muslim pilgrims going for Hajj in Saudi Arabia, which requires visitors to be vaccinated for meningitis.
Moreover, Malaysia recently developed globally-recognised guidelines for the development of pharmaceuticals that are not prohibited by Islamic law and that meet the most demanding quality standards. These guidelines are known as the MS 2424. The Malaysian Department of Standards, in collaboration with the Technical Committee of Halal Food and Islamic Consumer Goods, developed the MS 2424 to provide guidelines for the development and handling of halal pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical companies that want to manufacturer halal-certified pharmaceuticals must follow the guidelines set out by the MS 2424.
Today, Malaysia has created an attractive halal-friendly environment for Muslim medical tourists by implementing strict standards to reassure that halal-certified pharmaceuticals and foods are of the highest qualityand by collaborating with agencies and companies across various industries to assure that the needs and standards of Muslims medical tourists are satisfied.
Malaysia: Fostering a rigorous halal ecosystem for patient assurance
Malaysia is the only country in the world where the halal industry development agenda is backed by the government, which translates into the existence of a unique ecosystem that allows synergy between the private and public sectors. This ecosystem works in perfect unison with the private players focusing on production, manufacturing and serviceswhile the public agenciescoordinating the industry’s progress by providing certification and training. This collaboration is unique to anywhere in the world, fortifying the confidence of Muslim patients in seeking halal medical options in the country.
The Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC), the Islamic Tourism Center (ITC) and the Malaysian Department of Standards, through their well-orchestrated efforts, are ensuring an ecosystem where halal is looked at comprehensively and holistically. For instance, while HDC is responsible for coordinating the developments of the halal industry throughout Malaysia through setting standards, conducting audits and providing certifications, in order for food manufacturers and kitchens to become halal-certified, they must successfully pass an audit that confirms that they are abiding by specific guidelines, as ratified by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. Furthermore, ITC caters to the needs of Muslim tourists by facilitating access to halal directoriesand Muslim-friendly hotels and travel agencies.
Malaysia has 13 halal standards, which not only certify food items as well as food premises, but also cosmetics, personal care, pharmaceutical products and logistics.
Apart from the food and pharmaceutical industries, the Malaysian halal industry players have also been actively producing halal vaccines, nutraceutical products (dietary supplements and medicinal food ingredients) as well as devices that are used during medical operations.
These sectors have seen various new products and developments.As for the nutraceutical sector, there are a number of emerging big companies that produces halal supplements.
Today, anchored on the halal approach to medical treatment, Malaysia’s healthcare system has gone beyond just meeting Islamic or Shariah requirements but also the hygiene and safety aspects which have been an integral part of the country’s medical standards. This has made Malaysia an attractive medical magnet for non-Muslim medical tourists too.
Halal is here to stay
Halal is associated with ethical consumerism, which signifies high-quality, safe and ethical products. Halal is gaining currency, principally driven by two key trends that include the following:
- Rise in Muslim consumer spending
Muslim consumer spending in 2014 was USD1.8 trillion and this is expected to surge to USD2.6 trillion in 2020.
- Growth in the worldwide Muslim population
The worldwide Muslim population grew at 2x the rate of the global population, i.e. the world’s population is projected to grow 35 per cent in the coming decades but the Muslim base is expected to grow by a sharper 73 per cent – from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050. Concurrently, by 2050, Muslims are expected to make up about 30 per cent of the world’s population.
Based on these statistics, it is evident that the global halal sector will be the fastest growing consumer segment in the world. And with an eye on the future, Malaysia, with the most developed Islamic ecosystem, is further fortifying its strengths in halal and emerging as the medical market of choice for anyone looking at holistic, low-cost, safe and hygienic treatment.
GD Assist, as a reputed healthcare tourism management company in Bangladesh, possesses an unparalleled hospital network association and database of hospitals and medical professionals, thereby offering patients a wide range of affordable, high-impact and halal medical solutions in Malaysia.
So call GD Assist today for booking an appointment.
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