A few years ago, the only "halal" signs one saw were on butchers' shops. But now halal is turning into a global brand – as highlighted in a BBC documentary proclaiming that "The Future is Halal".

The Arabic word "halal" means simply, that which is permitted in Islam (the opposite being "haram", or what is forbidden), and until recently that definition meant little more than consuming meat slaughtered in a religiously compliant way, and avoiding pork and alcohol. Now there is an almost endless list of halal products. The hashtag #IslamicProducts on Twitter recently satirised the increasing absurdity of some of these innovations.

The most lucrative of these by far is Islamic finance, which seeks to eliminate usury from all transactions and which has been transformed from a niche product to one available on the high street in the UK.

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