Muslims in Indonesia have depended heavily on halal certification from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to ensure that the food and other products they consume are safe within the guidelines of their religion.
But MUI, being an independent body, has often been criticized for not being transparent about the money they receive from issuing halal certification. In response, the Religious Ministry in 2014 set up their own halal certification body, the Halal Products Guarantee Body (BPJPH), which many expected would replace the MUI as the sole halal authority in Indonesia.
However, with the BPJPH recently being made an official agency within the Religious Ministry, it appears that the MUI still has a large role to play in halal certification in Indonesia.
“MUI’s role is very big as the [halal] fatwa comes from MUI. The government is merely facilitating the registration [of products] and the issuing of the certification. That’s all,” Religious Ministry Secretary General Nur Syam wrote in a release yesterday, as picked up by CNN Indonesia.
According to Nur Syam, the BPJPH’s job is to receive applications for halal certification. The actual review of the products would be done by the government’s Halal Control Agency (LPH), the results of which would be given to the MUI for approval. Once approved, the BPJPH can then issue the halal certificate.
In other words, the halal certification process in Indonesia remains essentially the same, only this time the government introduced several more bureaucratic levels for applicants to go through.
The existence of the BPJPH does not, then, rectify the issue of lack of financial transparency in the MUI. The MUI has been, and still is, exempt from audit by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK). The MUI has the privilege to choose any private auditing firm to investigate their books, the impartiality of which can obviously come under question.
So why should Indonesian Muslims trust the MUI to determine what’s halal or not if the council can’t even assure the public that their money is halal?