When food sellers in Bogor's Chinatown heard about Mayor Diani Budiarto's plan to make Bogor halal, they had one question on their minds.
What exactly is a halal city?
The word halal is a commonly used Arabic adjective that means sanctioned by Islamic law.
Halal food refers to delicacies that are permissible under Islamic law; a halal restaurant would mean a restaurant selling or serving food ritually fit according to Islamic law.
What then is a halal city?
For one, there will be no pigs in the Bogor slaughterhouse as they are considered haram or forbidden by Islam. Last month while opening the city's new slaughterhouse Mayor Diani announced that pig slaughter was not allowed in the new establishment. He added that by August the city of Bogor would not accommodate pig slaughter. Bogor has also banned pig farming.
Diani, currently serving his second term as mayor, after winning the election in 2008 backed by a giant coalition made up of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Golkar party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and smaller parties, said that the five-hectare slaughterhouse would produce certified halal meat from cows, goats, and poultry only.
Asked whether the pig slaughter ban was related to the prevention of the H1N1 flu outbreak, Bogor agribusiness agency head Herlin Krisnaningsih said it was not.
"No, the regulation is about being halal. Bogor is making its way into becoming a halal city," she said in a telephone interview.
"Prior to the news of the H1N1 flu outbreak we had decided to ban pigs to be more halal," she said.
Bogor's move to become a halal city started late last year, when the mayor in collaboration with the Indonesia Ulema Council Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics (LP POM MUI) decided to make Bogor the pilot halal city.
LP POM MUI director, Nadratuzzaman Hosen, said that the establishment of Bogor as a halal city was a move to protect Muslim consumers.
By establishing Bogor as a halal city, the administration and the LP POM MUI hope to encourage restaurants that claim to serve halal food, to become halal certified.
"From so many restaurants in Bogor, few of them have halal certifications. Meanwhile, Bogor has become a holiday destination and many restaurants are not guaranteed to serve halal food," he said.
He also encouraged restaurants that serve pork or have haram ingredients in their dishes to have signs to alert customers.
Asked whether the pig slaughter ban was part of becoming a halal city, Nadratuzzaman said the LP POM MUI did not suggest that. "Pig slaughter is fine by us. What we don't allow is pork sold as beef," he said.
While the LP POM MUI suggestion to make Bogor a halal city meant more certified halal restaurants to protect Muslim consumers, with the banning of pigs from the city's slaughterhouses, the mayor has moved further from that to only accommodate the meat requirenments of Muslims.
Herlin said the idea to ban pigs in the slaughterhouse was the mayor's idea.
"The mayor wanted it. Especially because Bogor's tagline is Bogor beriman," she said.
Bogor beriman means Bogor holds faith. Beriman is also an abbreviation of bersih, indah, dan nyaman, which means clean, beautiful, and comfortable.
She said that for now, people who want to slaughter pigs could use the old slaughterhouse in Kebon Pedes. "However, in the end we want pigs to be banned from the city," she said.
An organization advocating for pluralism, the National Aliance for Bhineka Tunggal Ika said in a statement said that naming Bogor as a halal city was a divisive move.
"Why is it that Bogor, a metroplitan and transit city with various ethnic groups, races and religions, has declared itself a halal city? A Halal city to whom? And what is the definition? Will Bogor also ban serving beef because Hindus consider cows sacred? Why don't they just ban all meat as Buddhists don't eat meat?" Suma Mihardja, a member of the alliance asked.
Suma said the Bogor administration should lift its controversial policy, which discriminated against religions other than Islam.