Halal in America – the time is now

Halal in America – the time is now

Halal Session at ISNA 2009 Heralds New Era For American Halal Sector

The 46th Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America was held in Washington DC over the July 4th holiday weekend. Official numbers have not yet been published, but, as always, this event brings tens of thousands of American Muslims together for the convention, bazaar and side sessions.

This year, in collaboration with the American Halal Association, ISNA held a Halal industry session entitled “Halal in America – the time is now!” to explore the opportunities and issues brought about by the current global expansion in the Halal market.

The session was introduced by ISNA acting Secretary general, Ahmed Elhattab, who confirmed the importance of this matter to the ISNA leadership, and emphasising ISNA’s commitment as an active participant in the alliance with AHA to drive and develop the Halal industry in the North America.

The first presentation from Abdalhamid Evans of Imarat Consultants looked at the way that the dramatic increase of interest in the Halal sector will have an impact in North America, both from a business perspective as well as for the Muslims consumers themselves.

The primary question that was raised is whether the Muslim community can benefit from the many business opportunities that are being generated by the expansion in this market…or whether the benefits will all go to the multinationals.

The issue of Halal Consumer Power was raised, and it seems clear that, given some degree of coordination, the 8 million Muslims in the USA with a combined spending power of $170 billion, can certainly influence the way this market unfolds.

Shahed Amanullah, founder of Zabihah.com brought the audience up-to-date on the latest online developments of the Halal consumer market. Tracking 6,000 restaurants and 1,500 stores, zabihah.com has an active reviewer base of over 30,000 consumers, and more than any other site, seems to have its finger on the pulse of the growth of the Halal market.

Shahed showed the graph of the growth of American Halal restaurants over the last decade, and if this growth rate continues ¬–as it is showing every sign of doing– this industry is clearly going to emerge as a potent market force in the USA.

A panel of industry experts included Ahmad Adam, founder of the American Halal Association, Selma Djukic of White Owl Global Services, specializing in the pharmaceutical sector, plus Joohi Tahir of Crescent Foods Chicago, took questions from the audience covering all manner of issues from Shariah issues to Islamophobia (Halal IS the answer to Islamophobia!) and many things in between.

Copies of the Pilot issue of HalalConnect, the magazine published by the AHA were distributed throughout the 3-day ISNA convention, and appears to have been very well received.

There seems little doubt that Halal –already an emerging global market force– is really making its presence felt in the North American market. The recent creation of a Halal division at the USDA, the existence of Halal Acts in many States, clear interest and commitment from many of the world’s largest corporations, and a growing awareness of the power of the US Muslim consumers are all combining to create a powerful convergence of common interest in Halal.

For the Muslim community in North America, this seems to be the moment to engage more fully with the commercial arena, especially in a sector that offers opportunity and responsibility in equal measures.

With such a wealth of resources –human, educational and financial– the American Muslim community would seem to be well placed to take advantage of this next phase of growth in the engagement of Islam with Western culture and commerce.

In any event, given the high impact that all things American have on the world, the growth of the American Halal Market seems certain to have a significant impact on the way the Halal market develops beyond its shores.

More information on all of these initiatives can be found at www.americanhalalassociation.org, as well as at www.halalconnect.com, and for further information please send emails to info@americanhalalassociation.org.

Copies of Abdalhamid’s presentation ‘Halal – Identity, Opportunity and Influence’ can be downloaded at www.imaratconsultants.com.