IT seems to be an increasingly visible logo on an increasing number of British shops and restaurants, but what is this word, and what does it mean? It consists of four or sometimes five characters in what appears to be Arabic script, in a sort of squiggly form that will be incomprehensible to most.
But, it is lunchtime, and the lengthy queues outside this particular fast food restaurant would suggest that the burgers and chicken tender strips are delicious and worth waiting for, and no unrecognised word is going to prevent this mixed crowd of patrons from sitting down and tucking in.
The word in question is ‘Halal', which will probably mean nothing to the majority of Britons, however for followers of Islam, and when grabbing your lunch or shopping at the butchers, seeing the halal logo is a must, for UK Muslims to be certain that the food has been prepared in accordance with the teachings of Islamic dietary law.
Since the emergence of the first (and now seemingly ubiquitous) curry restaurants in Britain, there have been many firsts for halal food, with the word halal now being visible next to Chinese restaurants, steak houses and even school dinners.
The latter in particular will be a relief to many school children as personal memories of seemingly only being able to eat egg and grated cheese daily, or hoping that the allowable fish dish was on the school menu are not particularly fond ones.
In today's Britain, however things have moved on with more understanding of the needs of consumers from a particular segment of society. Slowly too, and in their efforts to attract new customers, corporate Britain has woken up to the strength of the ‘halal pound', and are coming up with newer and more ingenious ways of appealing to the Muslim customer.
Wander down the aisles of supermarket giants Asda, and refrigerators full of halal meat and poultry with labelling from Brazil or New Zealand sit next to boxed kebabs and minced meat samosas. This may be a familiar sight to shoppers in the Gulf, but for Britain this has come as somewhat of a revolution as forward thinking company management aim for an inclusive customer base, and create loyalty. As long as those pennies (and more importantly pounds!) are being taken at the cash register everyone will be happy.
Another retail first came about when, as well as Asda, Tesco and Morrisons decided to sell halal chocolate bars, the brainwave of London businessman Khalid Sharif who launched his caramel and orange range to wide acclaim four years ago. This turned out to be a double victory for the young entrepreneur when his sales soared from the makers of Mars and Snickers ill advised decision to introduce to usage of animal products in their own range.
On announcing it's flights to Dubai, and a first amongst British airlines, Luton based carrier Silverjet announced an ex-UK all halal menu, and now a branch of McDonalds in London's Southall is currently trialing a halal menu for some of it's burgers. As witnessed by the popularity of global restaurant chains to satisfy the dining demands of it's cosmopolitan population in the UAE and other Gulf countries, the usage of halal foods enables everyone to enjoy that burger or steak without the fuss. More UK companies take note.