Halal certification in Malaysia and Singapore : culinary infrastructure at the intersection of religion and politics
Scholars use the term 'religious economy' to describe situations where religion is treated as a marketplace, analogous to a typical business or economic realm. The term suggests that religious or moral-related markets are compatible with and embedded in with political interests that suit the ruling political parties, ostensibly for maintaining their hegemony and thereby sustaining power. In Southeast Asia, religion and ethnic culture remain among the key determinants in ensuring political and
... ing political and social stability. Moreover, the dynamic multi-ethnic and multicultural societies of Malaysia and Singapore serve as exemplars of Halal systems to understand and entice wider conclusions on the subject. My central argument is that the state authorities have been at the forefront in exploiting Islamic values and ideas for the purpose of attaining hegemony and sustaining dominance. The management of Halal production, certification and regulation are, in Jeffrey Pilcher's terms, a form of 'culinary infrastructure'1 that unites cultural and social practices, and in the case of Malaysia and Singapore, are entangled with '... intense political negotiation'.2 This thesis envisages studies on the multidisciplinary expressions of Halal systems comprising political, social and economic discourses. Muslims in both states are becoming increasingly cognisant of their religious obligations (particularly in diet and dress); this, coupled with evolving lifestyle and increasing purchasing power, has created demand for Halal products. Halal certification expression is reflective of an outcome of modernisation of Malay people's consumerism, bureaucratisation and industrialisation of Islam as culinary infrastructure where Halal is viewed beyond mere religious lenses.