Survey: Growing religious observance reshaping consumer landscape in Malaysia, SE Asia

Survey: Rising religious compliance is changing the consumer landscape in Malaysia, Southeast Asia

According to the report, Muslim-influenced consumption has now spread to fashion, banking, travel, education, and personal spending, investing, and giving. — Photo by Firdaus Latif

By Ashman Adam

Thursday, September 22, 2022 7:00 am MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 22 (Reuters) – Rising religious compliance – fueled by government measures to boost sectors like halal food and Islamic banking, and political parties courting Muslim votes – has shattered the Muslim consumer landscape in Malaysia and its neighboring countries in just a year changes single generation, a report has shown.

That’s why the report, “The New Muslim Consumer: How Rising Observance is Reshaping the Consumer Landscape in South-east Asia and Beyond,” written by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence in collaboration with VMLY&R Malaysia’s Muslim Intel Lab, showed 33 percent of respondents say that as they get older they pay more attention to their faith compared to their parents.

The report states that Muslim-influenced consumerism previously included only food – primarily pork and alcohol avoidance – but has now spread to include fashion, banking, travel, education, and personal spending, investing and giving, which is leading up to to the emergence of humble fashion brands, Sharia-compliant banks, hijabi-only hair salons, and halal dim sum restaurants.

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It also noted that this urbanization of Islam has led to the proliferation of Islamic seals of approval, such as halal certification for products or services.

Hew Wai Weng, a research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) who studies the Muslim middle class in Malaysia and Indonesia, called this “fluid Islamism,” a nod to the concept of “fluid modernity,” which describes constant change in the describes today’s society.

“Urbanization is one of the reasons Halal certification has become so important in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“This (certification) is particularly important for those who are leaving the familiarity of closely knit small towns and villages in favor of cities as they seek a network they can trust,” he was quoted in the report as saying.

Based on this, the report found that Islam has become a significant part of everyday life, with 91 percent of respondents saying a strong relationship with Allah is very important, tied with health care and closely followed by family at 89 percent cents.

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At the other end of the spectrum, just 34 percent of respondents say wealth is important, just 28 percent say following their passions is important, and just 12 percent say fame is important.

The report also found that men are significantly more likely than women to prioritize marriage, children and careers, while women are significantly more likely to prioritize new and different experiences from their parents’, as well as travel.

In terms of gender roles and responsibilities, the report found that a majority of respondents indicated that men provide the most financial support for their household.

However, a significant minority – two in five – of women say they are the most financially supportive of their household.

Of these, 17 percent of women see themselves as heads of household, as they provide the most financial support.

The urbanization of the Muslim consumer has also led to a consensus that young women should have more access to education.

However, less than a third strongly believe young women should have more freedom than they do now, or have more say in their mosque community or government.

When it comes to travel, the availability of halal restaurants and hotel options for Muslim consumers are as important as travel costs and have become the most important factors in choosing a destination when it comes to international travel.


Muslim consumers will now also consider the friendliness of destination governments and citizens towards Muslims when making their decision.

The survey also showed that Muslims are using technology to promote their halal lifestyle, including using mobile apps, with 42 percent and 39 percent of men shopping online at least once a week.

It states that consumers are most likely to turn to online shopping for clothing, household products, beauty products, tech products and groceries, while men are more likely to buy tech products online, but otherwise women are more likely to make online purchases.

The survey included 1,000 consumers in Indonesia and Malaysia and was conducted in May 2022 by SONAR, Wunderman Thompson’s proprietary online research tool.

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