Amid the contentious public debate surrounding the recently submitted omnibus bill on job creation, nongovernmental organization Indonesia Halal Watch has raised concerns about several new stipulations in the bill, which it says will negatively impact the country’s halal certification regulations if they become law.
Halal Watch executive director Ikhsan Abdullah said in a statement that several stipulations in the omnibus bill, while necessary to streamline redundancies in prevailing laws, could act as a detriment to the existing halal certification procedure, which mainly relied on fatwas (edicts) issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
He said the new stipulations, including Articles 1 and 7 which would replace or add to Law No.33/2014 on halal product guarantees and Government Regulation No. 33/2018, would completely do away with the MUI’s role in the certification procedure, as they would shift the authority to handle the issuance of halal certifications to the Halal Certification Agency (BPJPH).
“What the government can do instead is implement alternative streamlining measures that do not contradict existing substantive regulations, such as the MUI’s edicts on what passes as a halal product,” Ikhsan said, adding that religion was at the core of halal certification, rendering MUI’s role integral.
He went on to say that, to prevent any confusion regarding differing fatwas on halal products should the new provisions pass into law, the government must give the final word on the matter to the MUI in accordance with prevailing laws.
“In our view, religious laws have been co-opted by the state. The government intends to grant power to the BPJPH [to issue halal certification]. It is something that will likely be met with resistance from Muslims,” he said.
Ikhsan said the organization objected to Article 7 of the bill, which he said would make it possible for private parties to declare independently that their products were halal without prior certification under the MUI’s supervision.
“It will disrupt Muslims’ trust in the halal logo, which they have long regarded as the final word on the halal factor as they consume the products in question,” he said.
Food and beverage producers have expressed difficulties complying with the mandatory halal certification regulation, specifically when it comes to fulfilling requirements related to product re-audits for adding new ingredients, halal storage, distribution and transportation.
Indonesian Food and Beverage Producers Association (GAPMMI) committee head for public policy and inter-institutional relations Doni Wibisono said it was difficult for food and beverage producers to meet the certification requirements as it required a re-audit every time new ingredients were added.
“Even if we have a change of flavor in one product, we have to re-audit it, whereas before, we just had to verify whether the new ingredients were safe,” Doni said last month. (rfa)