When there is a profit to be made, capitalism has no political spirit and can collude with any ideology — from democracies to totalitarian tyrannies. This view was most recently set forth by the French anthropologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler in her book, “Le marché halal ou l’invention d’une tradition” (“The Halal Market or the Invention of a Tradition”).
Bergeaud-Blackler claims in her book that “halal” food (food that, in Islam, is religiously permitted) was “recently invented” as a label and as a potential commercial market, in a collusion between Iranian fundamentalists and multinational agrifood businesses. In an interview with the French daily newspaper, Liberation, she said:
“I speak of invention of the ‘halal market’ in the sense that we are not dealing with an ancient tradition imported from Muslim countries. The halal market never existed in the Muslim world until food ‘big business’ created it and exported it. The halal convention was born in the 70s and 80s. At this time, two ideologies triumphed on the international scene: on the one hand, Muslim fundamentalism, including the proclamation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, and, on the other hand, neo-liberalism, with Thatcher and Reagan. This convergence, unscheduled and unexpected, would allow these two ideologies to work together to establish a halal food industrial protocol”.
According to Bergeaud-Blackler, halal food, for centuries, had been reduced in Muslim countries to the prohibition of pork. All food, with the exception of pork, that had been produced both locally — and non-locally, by “People of the Book” (Christian and Jews) — was considered halal. But after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, halal became a fundamentalist food requirement habit, sanctified by economic interests. In the 1970s, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which were engaged in a competition to spread their vision of Islam throughout the world, found useful help by multinationals such as Nestlé, which had in mind the creation of the large global halal food market.