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Global halal cosmetics market booms

Entrepreneurs producing "halal" cosmetics say the global market is booming as more Muslims opt for beauty products that conform to Islamic rules.

Famiza Zulkifli made her first halal soap four years ago, after searching in vain for the right products to bathe her baby. Now her business has an annual turnover of 1.6 million dollars.

"Halal is an issue for Muslims. At the end of the day, everyone will die and God will ask you what have you done," said the Malaysian singer-turned-entrepreneur.

Famiza, who unusually for a Malaysian woman wears the black niqab that only reveals her eyes, now exports dozens of top-to-toe beauty products to Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei.

The concept of halal, which means "permissible" in Arabic, is mainly applied to food. Pork and its by-products, animals not slaughtered according to Koranic procedures and alcohol are all "haram" or forbidden.

But manufacturers are cashing in on the concept that virtually all goods and services can be certified halal, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, clothing, financial services and even tour packages.

Like their conventional counterparts, halal cosmetics - including lipstick, deodorant and alcohol-free perfume - can contain animal ingredients but they must be prepared according to Islamic codes on slaughter and preparation.

"Even the small amount of collagen in our night cream is derived from halal sheep raised at a Muslim-run farm in Australia," said Famiza, adding that she plans to expand her business from Southeast Asia to Europe next year.

Nearly a quarter of the world's population are Muslims and the global halal business, estimated by a Malaysian research company to be worth 635 billion dollars a year, has expanded from Islamic countries to Western nations with growing Muslim populations.

In France, which is home to about five million Muslims, sales of halal food are forecast to hit 5.5 billion euros (7.2 billion dollars) in 2010 according to an industry spokesman.

The halal cosmetics business - estimated to be worth 560 million dollars globally - is seen by analysts as next in line for growth after the lucrative halal food and Islamic finance sectors.

Mah Hussain-Gambles, founder of the first halal cosmetics company in Europe, Saaf Pure Skincare, said the industry has also benefitted from a "green wave" and that 75 percent of her customers are non-Muslims.

"The principles are the same - they want something that doesn't harm the body, the purity and that is exactly the same as the halal movement," she said.

"I create an eco-ethical brand which is organic, vegetarian and halal - they are all important elements to me," she said, adding that demand "is getting out of control".

"The enquiries are from everywhere. Last week there were enquiries from Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia - it's just too much work."

Abdalhamid David Evans, a British expert on the halal business, said more manufacturers will jump on the bandwagon as Muslims choose halal products to reinforce their identity while others become more eco-conscious.

"People are becoming increasingly concerned about those things and they become a marketing issue," said Evans, of Imarat Consultants.

"Without a doubt, (the halal cosmetics industry) is going to be big," he told AFP on the sidelines of the first international halal cosmetics and toiletries conference, which was held in Malaysia last month.