‘Permissible and forgivable’: Malaysia clarifies that alcohol-based hand sanitisers can be used by Muslims

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Muslim consumers can use alcohol-based hand sanitisers, says Malaysia. ©GettyImages
Muslim consumers can use alcohol-based hand sanitisers, says Malaysia. ©GettyImages

Related tags: Malaysia, Halal cosmetics, COVID-19, hand sanitisers

Malaysia’s minister of religious affairs has given the green light for Muslim consumers to use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri posted an announcement on the ministry’s official website stressing that protection against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was of utmost importance.

“Due to the emergence of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our country, the implementation of cleanliness is the main factor in decreasing the risk of being infected by the virus.”

Quoting fatwa, he elaborated that alcohol used medical or personal care use was permissible as it does not intoxicate.

The minister emphasised that according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, every hand sanitiser product on the market must contain ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or benzalkonium chloride as the main ingredient.

He added that people should follow the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers as they are considered the ‘gold standard’ for hand hygiene.

Halal consultant Mawarni Hassan noted that in this climate of fear and anxiety, some retailers and manufacturers are taking advantage by marketing hand sanitisers as halal or ‘Muslim-friendly’.

“Some people are simply cashing in on the opportunity. They highlight that their hand sanitisers are alcohol-free as if having alcohol is wrong. That's just a marketing gimmick to catch a certain segment that is not aware that having alcohol in hand sanitisers is perfectly fine for Muslims to use.”

She added: “For hand sanitisers, the most important thing is that they do what they are supposed to do.”

Mawarni highlighted that manufacturers would need to seek approval from the Ministry of Health (MoH) before they can be sold in the market.

“Majority of hand sanitisers you see on the market, in pharmacies and such, would definitely have received MoH notification and they have to go through a special test to make sure it works as a hand sanitiser.”

Malaysian natural beauty and personal care brand Tanamera offers an alcohol-free hand sanitiser but does not highlight its halal qualities even though the brand is halal certified.

“We don’t bring up that it's halal at all because it shouldn’t even be a point of contention in the first place,” ​said Managing director Mohamad Faisal Ahmad Fadzil.

He told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that he considered it unscrupulous to do so.

“It is irresponsible for anyone to market hand sanitisers as halal or ‘better’ for Muslims, especially right now when people should be using hand sanitisers. People can use any hand sanitiser they want as long as they think it’s safe and good enough to protect themselves.”

Instead, the brand differentiates its hand sanitiser based on its natural qualities, its effectiveness and how it does not dry out the skin like alcohol-based ones.

The main component in the hand sanitiser is a plant-based anti-bacterial ingredient developed by the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) that is enhanced with other antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree oil.

According to the company, the product has been independently tested and proven to be effective, if not more effective, than alcohol-based hand sanitisers in the market now.

Today, the company is experiencing a high demand for its natural alcohol-free hand sanitiser.

“Honestly, we are quite surprised. Even though there are a lot of alcohol-based products in the market, there’s still a very big demand for our natural hand sanitisers because the alcohol-based ones can be very drying on the skin.”

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