New budget Sharia airline Rayani Air: Malaysia launches first Sharia airline

Malaysia's first Sharia-compliant airline launched flights on Sunday, following the tenets of Islamic law that ban alcohol, allow only halal foodstuffs, and require women to cover their hair.

Rayani Air's first service, from the capital Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi, a popular holiday destination, followed rules the company will adopt on all flights, which will see prayers recited before take-off, a ban on in-flight alcohol, and Muslim air stewardesses obliged to wear the hijab, the Islamic headcarf.

Jaafar Zamhari, Rayani Air's managing director, confirmed that alcohol would be banned on all flights and detailed the strict dress code.

"It is compulsory for our Muslim women cabin crew to wear hijab and for non-Muslims to wear a decent uniform", Mr Zamhari said, according to local news outlet Astro Awani.

"We also recite doa [prayers] before the departure of each flight, we have a 'no-alcohol' policy, and we provide food and beverages that are halal."

Rayani Air was not available to answer questions on dress codes for non-Muslim passengers, or whether non-halal snacks purchased before boarding would be allowed on flights.

Its website says it provides a "complimentary welcome snack pack" including a "tasty muffin, fruit juice and peanuts".

The airline, which is currently advertising services between Kuala Lumpur's klia2 airport, Kota Bahru and Langkawi, will also offer flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu using its two Boeing 737-400 aircraft. It is based at Langkawi International Airport, used by a large number of international holidaymakers.

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Malaysia is about 60 per cent Muslim, with other popular religions including Buddhism and Christianity.​

Sharia law is based on readings of the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and is supplemented by later interpretations.

Halal – meaning "permissible" in Arabic – is a standard applied to foodstuffs, drinks and cosmetics that are prepared in line with methods to make them acceptable under Islamic law. It bans pork products and by-products such as gelatine, as well as alcohol, which is deemed "haram" (forbidden).

Airlines operating from Saudia Arabia and Iran already adhere to Sharia principles. Women on Iran's national airline, IranAir, must wear the hijab at all times on board, while Saudia, Saudi Arabia's flag carrier, does not serve alcohol and bans passengers from bringing it on board.

In January 2015 Saudia denied it had introduced gender-segregated flights.

A UK-based Sharia-compliant flight company is also planning to launch in 2016. Firnas Airways, a start-up run by Kazi Shafiqur Rahman, plans to launch its first route to Sylhet in Bangladesh, with more services to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, New York, Pakistan and Iran planned. It claims to offer, "a full premium service at economy budget".

The Telegraph, London

See also: What should female tourists wear in Islamic countries?
See also: Why you should visit a Muslim country 

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