Bo-Kaap residents are angry over the insensitive and distorted narratives conveyed by tour guides to tourists, says the writer. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency/(ANA)
Bo-Kaap residents are angry over the insensitive and distorted narratives conveyed by tour guides to tourists, says the writer. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency/(ANA)

The politics and economics of Halaal tourism

By Mahmood Sanglay Time of article published Jun 24, 2019

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An estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world consume Halaal, and that is not just food. Halaal covers a range of other sectors, namely finance, fashion, travel, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, media and recreation.

According to the 2018/19 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report the global Muslim spend across all sectors was US$2.1 trillion in 2017. The Muslim spend in the global Halaal travel sector in 2017 was US$177 billion, and is forecast to reach US$274 billion by 2023, with an astounding growth rate of 7,6% per annum.

Muslims are the biggest consumers of Halaal, but they are not its biggest producers. The biggest producers of Halaal are multinationals that have no interest in Islam as a faith.

In South Africa social, cultural historical issues play an important role in the political economy. Such issues include historical unfair advantage for whites under apartheid and the marginalisation and exclusion of communities.

The classic case in point is the Bo-Kaap, which is the locus of much tension due to resistance by residents to creeping gentrification. Add to that the discontent of Bo-Kaap residents over insensitive and distorted narratives conveyed by tour guides to tourists.

The Bo-Kaap was shaped by a colonial past, and now revisited by a neo-colonial presence.

Today the violation is more insidious, under the cover of free enterprise and economic growth. Consequently class and artificial social hierarchies are now imposed as dividers of people. Colonial occupation by wealthy buyers from abroad can still occur in legally acquired land that had for centuries been the space where culture, religion and architecture was preserved from one generation to the next.

Tourists do not hear this narrative from institutions like Cape Town Tourism and the tour operators. More importantly do these institutions make any contribution to the preservation of this heritage? 

As tourists, backed by ample foreign currency, jaunt through the streets of the Bo-Kaap and gawk at unemployed youth and residents, the spectre of repression remains hanging in the air, and a seething disdain builds.

From the outbound side of the industry the problem is mirrored. The Interim Halaal Co-ordinating Committee (IHCC) was established in the Western Cape in 2017, inter alia, to ensure that Halaal, in its broadest sense, is the property of Muslims and that Muslims are entitled to a fair share of the benefit from the Halaal economy. 

It is ultimately about inclusion at the highest decision-making and policy-making level as well as economic benefit.

The industry is lacking in a genuine transformation agenda. There are multinational corporations that dominate the market and smaller operators, particularly Muslim operators, that are automatically disadvantaged.

In a free market economy the small Muslim operator is compelled to accept that the lion’s share Halaal travel and tourism may be in the hands of travel and tourism operators that have no interest in Islam, but a great deal of interest in the money of the Muslim consumer.

Halaal is ripe for the picking by all and sundry. Muslims are entitled to a fair share, and the rest they must be willing to share.

* Mahmood Sanglay is director and senior writer for Muslim Views. He is currently exploring opportunities in Halaal travel and tourism through Salsabeel Travel, an entity created for this niche market. 

** Salsabeel Travel is offering an exciting 13-day tour of Ottoman Turkey. Call 021 696 7692 or email [email protected] Visit

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