Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Ministers defend 'halal' ruling

JAKARTA: Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Yusuf Kalla and Minister for Religious Affairs Said Agil Munawar defended on Thursday a much-criticized new ruling on halal certification.

The ministers agreed however, that the halal labeling for each product should not be mandatory. "Producers are free not to put the halal label, but they would be put at risk of making (Muslim) consumers suspicious as they could not guarantee that food or beverages were not prohibited by Islamic teaching," Minister Kalla said.

If a food or beverage is halal, this means that it may be consumed by Muslims.

Producers have earlier lambasted the new ruling saying it was designed solely for the purpose of extorting money from businesspeople, and thus consumers, rather than protecting Muslims from consuming forbidden food and beverages.

The draft revision of the ruling has been submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights for further review. After this stage, it will be submitted to the President for endorsement. --JP