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Culinary Coup d’état

Sometimes we need some additional effort to verify whether the food we are eating is halal or not. Which is a funny fact given Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country.

When I was a student with limited purchasing power, all food is automatically halal. Maybe because cheap food in a majority Muslim country have negligible chance to be not halal. It’s hard to procure pork or wine for a warteg, of course.

Now with a drastic increase in my purchasing power, I have to be more careful. I can afford delicious and expensive food, but not all of them is halal. Sure, there are some establishment or restaurant that is obviously not halal. But some restaurants or some packaged food that is innocent-looking do not have their MUI’s halal stamp. And they remain that way for a long time. It seems that these producers or restauranteurs do not face any repercussions for this, so they don’t bother to make their food halal.

If not ensuring the halal-ness of their product do not diminish the demand of their product in the eyes of consumer, then that means the average Indonesian consumer (which is mostly Muslim, do not really care or aware about the halal-ness of their food. There is no pressure for the business to change because their consumer is also ignorant.

Then there is the problem of demographics. The ones that do care about halal-haram do not have enough purchasing power to qualify as the target consumer for these businesses. Average religious people are not rich. The ones that do have enough purchasing power are not religious enough to care about halal-haram. Average rich people are not religious.

I want to eat good food with my hard-earned money, but I do not want to enter Hell because of the food. This is a silly problem, but the solution might be sophisticated social engineering. For my personal complaint, a society-wide change have to occur.

The change theory is this:
Make the target customers of those syubhat/haram food products care about halal to the point they are willing to forgo consumption, thus pressuring non-halal products to make their foods halal to regain their lost customers.

There are two ways to make this happen:

  • Increase the purchasing power of the religious people that cannot yet to afford the food at the designated price level to the point where they can afford it
  • Increase the religiosity of the affluent class that can afford the concerned food products to the point that their religiosity influence their purchasing decision

The first method is harder than the second method because of two reasons:

  • Reason #1: It’s not that easy to increase the income of a particular segment of society. That means giving the higher-paying jobs that need higher-level skills. Structural economic change is not that easy. If I have the answer, I can be the President if not the Minister of Economy
  • Reason #2: Even if the income can be increased, the number of people whose income need to increased has to offset the number of existing halal-ignorant customer base to be truly effective to pressure businesses to change their non-halal products. This is because the new customer would have to constitute a majority part of the those businesses’ profit. Thus, any effect will be diluted by the enlarged overall customer base.

That leaves the second method. Dakwah to the affluent society. I think this segment is an underserved one. I see that most dakwah is targeted to the lower class while some might be for middle class. The upper class has seen little dakwah. I think dakwah can be classified into two:

  • Intensifying Dakwah: Dakwah to Muslim who already buy in to the concept of Islam as regulating all affairs of life. This kind is meant to increase the knowledge of the routine attendants. This increase the piousness of existing Muslim, but not significantly adding more Muslim to a higher piousness level
  • Expansionary Dakwah: Dakwah to Muslim that only see limited role for Islam beyond daily rituals so they would buy in to the idea that Islam regulates all affair of life. The major goal is to add the number of Muslim who thinks that way.

Strategy to tap in into this underserved segment should be thought of. If the strategy has been defined, its implementation would have far-reacing consequence beyond the trivial matter of food. Very interesting. I should develop this idea more to be execution-ready.

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