The bill on halal product assurance, now being deliberated at the House of Representatives, discriminates against non-Muslims and has serious impacts for people who consume items unacceptable under the bill, legislators said Monday.
“We are afraid the bill will bring serious problems for people, such as with the pornography law,” legislator Tiurlan Basaria Hutagaol, from the Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), said on the sidelines of a House hearing with the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Article 31 of the bill allows “people to take part in helping supervise” the enforcement of the law.
This stipulation could lead to acts of vigilantism against those selling products without halal labels on them, Basaria said.
She added only a few experts understood the matter, while most Muslims, especially hard-liners, would support the bill simply because it was the proper religious thing to do.
“We also have to think about the implications in the field. This bill will have negative implications, especially for non-Muslims,” she said.
“Many non-Muslims run food stalls selling pork and dog meat. What will happen to them? Indonesia is a big country and has many tribes, religions and customs. The bill will also hurt some ethnic cultures that use pig and dog meat in their rituals.”
Basaria added the issue of halal (permissible under Islam) was a religious matter and should not be regulated by the state.
She also said the government needed to be concerned with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Stefanos Amolo, another PDS legislator, also expressed his disappointment over the bill, which adopts Islamic sharia law.
“Sharia is only for Muslims. How about Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. What about ethnic groups like Bataks, Balinese and those from West and East Nusa Tenggara? They will suffer from this bill,” he said.
He pointed out the bill prioritized the interests of Muslims while ignoring the needs of other groups.
Under the bill, all food, drinks, cosmetics, and chemical, biological or biologically engineered products must be declared permissible under sharia law before being allowed to go on sale to the public.
The bill also calls for a minimum prison sentence of eight years and/or a maximum fine of Rp 6 billion for the production and sale of food not labeled halal.
The PDS suggested the government implement existing consumer protection law articles on halal products, rather than create a specific law for it.
However, Latifah, a legislator from the National Mandate Party (PAN), was upbeat about the bill.
“We’ve been waiting so long for this bill, and finally the House is deliberating it,” she said.
“The bill will protect Muslims because there is so much haram [forbidden] food in Indonesia today.”
Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni also praised the bill.
“This bill is so important for us, because Muslims are the majority in Indonesia. The people need this,” he said.
After a three-year delay, the House began deliberating the bill in early February, less than two months before the April 9 legislative elections.
Legislators plan to pass the bill before September this year.
The nationalist-based Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) expressed objections to some of the bill’s contents.
“I think it would be better for us to educate legislators with the contents, so they know about it and won’t reject the bill,” said a PDI-P legislator who declined to be named. (naf)