Islamic Influence in Bangkok
The Al Meroz is a five-star hotel in a Muslim suburb of Bangkok, and is considered as the city’s first Halal hotel where dozens of Islamic marriages are held every month. Thailand has been drawing a lot of tourists and pleasure seekers because of its well-known beach parties, red light districts and cheap drinks. But at the same time, it has been a major destination for tourists from Muslim countries.
As the General Manager of the Al Meroz Hotel sees it, “If you consider the 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world, you would find it a pretty good market.” The hotel started its operation on 2017, being exquisite from the other hotels pertaining to their attention to everything Islamic. As a standard to Islamic culture, the hotel does not offer any alcohol, and everything in the building has been strictly monitored for practising Muslims. From the linen used in their beds, which have been washed in a particular manner, to making sure that all the toiletries are alcohol-free and animal fat-free – making sure that things being used on a daily basis are permissible for the faithful. These hectic processes of the hotel give visitors a “peace of mind”, and clients do not have to ask the staff if something can be eaten or not.
Western tourists have remained constant in Thailand, while the biggest increase in arrivals to the country has been from China. But Muslim countries have also been sending in their citizens. Thailand currently holds the top 2 spot for the non-Muslim majority nations together with Singapore in the annual survey of Halal destinations. The Islamic travel market is one of the fastest growing in the world, considering the massive offers of cheap flights and the developing status of Muslim middle classes. But it’s not just in Thailand homes that have gone Halal, today here is an increasing number of food companies switching to Halal to expand their customer base.
Outsiders might somewhat be surprised to have a Buddhist country embrace Halal as much as Thailand did. But the Head of the Halal Science Centre at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Dr. Dahlan stated that Thailand is pretty well placed for this kind of change. 5% of Thailand’s population is Muslim, and most of them are well-integrated within the Buddhist people.
And regards to food, the industry wherein it was local Thai Muslims who first began asking for the country’s halal testing centre, a business that scours products for any banned substances and has since boomed.
“Fifteen years ago there was only 500 food plants that had halal certification. Now it’s 6000,” Winai told AFP as female lab technicians in headscarves tested food products for traces of pork DNA. Over the same period the number of halal certified products made in Thailand has gone from 10,000 to 160,000, he added. It’s paid off. The government estimates the halal food industry is already worth $6 billion a year. As Thailand has quickly learned, there’s gold at the end of the halal rainbow.
Napha Phyakul Quach’s wedding reflects some of Thailand’s ethnic and cultural mix. She was married by an imam in a Muslim ceremony and wore her Indonesian mother’s wedding dress — a batik sarong. Her husband, who is Chinese, wore a traditional Chinese gown. The ceremony incorporated the Chinese, Indonesian and Thai tradition of the groom’s procession to the bride’s house; the groom passed through the series of symbolic “gates” to reach her home.