Indonesia: Citing Public Demand, NU Sets Up new Halal Certifier

Feriawan Hidayat – Jakarta Globe

The central executive board of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, has established a public service body that will issue halal certificates for goods and services, NU chairman Said Aqil Siroj says.

Said, speaking at the launch of the NU Halal Body (BHNU), said the new body was not meant to compete with similar existing institutions but was a response to public demand, especially from NU members in their guise as consumers.

“This is my dream, this is the dream of people at the NU executive board who all wish that NU can come out with halal certification for goods consumed by NU members. So this is the wish and the demand of consumers,” Said said in his speech at the launch ceremony late on Wednesday.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs, already operates a halal certification center. However, Transparency International Indonesia has cited MUI as one of the institutions involved in bribe taking, especially in its halal certification operations.
TII research and policy manager Frenky Simanjuntak last month said that some 10 percent of the 171 companies in the food and cosmetics sector, which were questioned in a survey, claimed to have been required to give money in their halal certification process.

Said said that MUI chairman Sahal Mahfud, who is also an NU executive, and Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali have expressed their support for the establishment of the BHNU.

“The principle of a transaction under Islam is that both the buyer and the seller should be happy. Therefore if entrepreneurs use the NU halal label, customers who are NU members will also be very satisfied,” Said explained.

“I stress it once again, the BHNU has no intention to compete or even take over the business of other enterprises. This is purely following a demand from NU members.”

Operationally, BHNU will work together with state-owned inspection company Sucofindo to process the laboratory results.

“If it is merely to declare something haram or halal according to Islamic laws, we have no shortage of manpower,” Said explained.

Arief Safaro, the president director of Sucofindo, welcomed the cooperation, saying that his company was ready to implement a cross-subsidy system to help spread the high cost of laboratory tests.

“Revenues from the product testing of large or medium-size companies will partly subsidize tests on the products of small-scale businesses, so that the cost can be affordable and all products can seek the halal label,” Arief said.

At the same occasion, BHNU also signed an agreement with Pegadaian, the state-owned pawnshop operator, for the provision of capital for small-scale enterprises seeking halal certification for their products.

Lukmanul Hakim, the director of the food, drug and cosmetics study institute of the MUI, said that the certification of a vendor of foods containing bakso, a popular Indonesian meatball, could cost up to Rp 2.5 million ($258) and could take up to one month.

But Lukmanul added that some of the sellers would not have to pay one cent, as the government would pay for them.