Tue, 15 Jan 2002

Is 'halal' label 'halal'?

Minister of Religious Affairs Said Agiel Munawar issued two decrees on halal labeling (fulfilling the requirements of Islamic dietary law) in November 2001. The decree obliges users of halal labels to buy a kind of sticker.

So far producers or importers holding halal certificates have put halal labels, not necessarily in the form of stickers, on the packages of their products, without additional payment. But pursuant to the two new ministerial decrees the state-owned banknote printing company Peruri is the only institution entrusted with printing durable and authentic halal labels.

Oddly, the first of those ministerial decrees on determining halal foods was signed on Nov. 30 but the second decree on the appointment of Peruri as the only label producer was effective from Nov. 10, 20 days before the signing of the first decree. There has been no explanation of this oddity.

No wonder anxiety over soaring production costs is followed by assumptions that the decrees reek of corruption, collusion and nepotism.

In Singapore, halal certificates are given not only for foodstuffs, but also to restaurants. The Singapore Islamic Council has a list of hundreds of restaurants/food stalls with halal certificates, which are strictly controlled.

The religious affairs ministry should be able to prove its ability to provide benefits instead of troubling the community.

-- Business Indonesia, Jakarta