Mahir Pradana was a guest researcher at CERES from October until December 2022. He did his PhD in Business in 2021 and came to Bochum to investigate more about religious consumer behaviour in Germany. Before he left CERES to go back to Indonesia, we asked him a few questions about his research and his big passion in football.
Welcome, Mahir! Can you tell us a bit about your personal background and what brought you to CERES?
I have a bachelor degree in management and a master degree in business administration. I finished my PhD in Business, but what brought me to CERES is my research about “religious consumer behavior”.
By the way: You are wearing a very striking shirt. Can you explain what it is all about?
What I am wearing is a traditional clothing from Indonesia. It is called “Batik”. It is well known in Indonesia and Malaysia because we share the same roots. Indonesia is a huge country with 5 main islands and lots of small islands and every island has its own traditional clothing style. Last year in November 2022 there has been a big diplomatic conference at Bali and lots of country leaders were wearing the “Batik”, because the Indonesian committees gave it to them. Every time when there is a presentation of my research, I am wearing my “Batik” to show this traditional clothing to people. This is clothing is something that Indonesians are very proud of.
Back to research: Your research is about Halal Food. Which connections do you see between this economic phenomena and religious studies?
My big umbrella of research is actually “Religious tourism and marketing”. I was born in a Muslim family, and I am a Muslim myself. I was born Muslim, I was raised Muslim and when I started studying I realized that these traditions are very interesting in the line of business academic research. I went to Spain to do my PhD in marketing and my professor was interested to explore more about Islamic tourism. As you might know, Spain has a long history of Islamic communities. Together with my professor at the University of Barcelona I published four research papers about this topic. And that was the point when I decided to focus even more on this topic. Afterwards I started my dissertation in “Spanish Muslim’s Halal Food Purchase Intention” and focused on religious tourism and specially on halal food consumer behavior. Still, there is a lot more to explore.
What is the aim of your research?
I realized it is a long journey because first I intended to come to Germany to explore more about Islamic purchase intentions in Germany. But during my time here I realized that I must dig deeper about the Islamic community characteristics. Germany has a huge population of Islamic communities, so I decided, that this would be my first step to find out more. But my aim is to contribute more on this Islamic tourism theme. At least I would like to work out a geographical perspective.
How long will you stay in Bochum? Where else in the world have you been working?
I stayed in Bochum for three months from October 2022 until December 2022. But I have been travelling a lot for my research and conferences, to present my findings. In Germany I have been to several cities, like Cologne, Düsseldorf, or Dortmund. I went to Switzerland to visit some friends and my professor. And also, to Spain to say hi to my colleagues I worked with until I got my PhD. Moreover, I went to Turkey to present my work at a conference. Being in Europe and in Bochum has been quite productive.
Maybe you can answer the question by looking at your research: What is people’s religion worth in terms of halal food?
When I was a kid, at that time the religious perspective was a bit more like a dogma to me. But during my studies I got a different perspective, that it can also become a business strategy. If you see it from a religious perspective, of course that is a path that you must walk. You must focus on this religion. For example, if you want to consume food you have to seek for halal food first. Europe is not the continent of Muslim majority, but the availability of halal food is expanding in various European countries. From this perspective I can look at a business perspective and search for business strategies. If you take it into the perspective of tourism, there are a lot of things to discuss. Spain has this long history of Islamic community in their country and there are lots of Muslim tourists that come to Spain. Until now in Spain there is no halal infrastructure for such food.
I looked all over the world to meet researchers with the same interest. The more I look, the more I realize there is so much more to explore. There is so much more, I would like to explore: Islamic finance, Islamic hotels. It would be nice to have a comparative study to compare different religions. To compare the behavior of the religious groups in terms of religious food or clothes.
How do you do your research? Is it mainly about statistics? How does it work?
I am still doing my studies quantitatively. I realized when I talked to other colleagues, that this also has disadvantages and weaknesses, because you must crosscheck. This is why I want to develop my research skills qualitatively.
Let’s have a look at a different “religion” here at the Ruhr area: football. I heard that you are really into football. Can you tell us a bit about your passion?
This is one of the things I really love in my life. Since I was a kid, I loved soccer or football a lot. I liked to play it, but I was never good at it. Because of this fact, I switched into writing about it. I wrote a lot about football and analyzed it. I focused more on history than on the players profiles or strategies. Football introduced me to Bochum and to the VfL Bochum. Moreover, my passion and interest in football somehow directed me to the Center for Religious Studies.
Thank you very much for this interview.