Islamic Car Coming Down the Pike?

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

( - Coming soon? A car designed for Muslims, complete with a compass to indicate the direction of Mecca for prayers and a compartment to house the Koran and prayer scarves.

Proposed by Iran, the plan is under consideration by Malaysia's national auto maker Proton, the company's managing director said at the weekend in Tehran, where he is taking part in a business mission.

Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir told the Malaysian Bernama news agency that the proposed model, which the Iranians suggested be called an "Islamic car," could be produced in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey.

"The car will have all the Islamic features and should be meant for export purposes," he said, adding that with government support, the producers could expect a large volume of orders.

Proton has been building cars since the 1980s, and sold about 150,000 in 2005 before experiencing a slump in 2006. Most of its sales are domestic although it also exports to countries mostly in the Middle East and Asia. It has been in talks with potential international partners.

Praying five times a day in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest place in Islam, is one of the pillars of the faith.

There are an estimated 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, with the largest populations in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.

Most bigger Muslim countries have low per-capita car ownership figures - fewer than 100 cars per 1,000 people, although a U.S.-British academic study early this year predicted significant increases by 2030 in countries like Turkey, India and Indonesia.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow