‘Halal whiskey’ hoax goes viral after gov’t ends Indonesian Ulema Council’s power to issue halal certifications

The text in the Facebook photo says “After halal certification was robbed from MUI, now there is a beer labeled halal (yes, apparently the person who made it doesn’t know the difference between whiskey and beer). This country is controlled by despicable people.”
The text in the Facebook photo says “After halal certification was robbed from MUI, now there is a beer labeled halal (yes, apparently the person who made it doesn’t know the difference between whiskey and beer). This country is controlled by despicable people.”

Until very recently, the only way for F&B producers wanting to have their products officially labeled halal in Indonesia was to go through the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) the country’s top Islamic clerical body. But after many years of accusations regarding corruption within MUI’s certification process, the government earlier this month ended the quasi-governmental association’s ability to issue halal certificates, passing that authority over to the newly created Halal Certification Agency. That body operates fully under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and, unlike MUI, is not allowed to collect fees for issuing certificates.

Despite MUI officials saying they now support the government’s decision (they had resisted previous attempts to take away their halal certification authority), it seems there are many people who believe that the ministry’s move is part of a secret government conspiracy to undermine Islam, as evidenced by the spread of photos purporting to show whiskey and wine that had been certified as halal in Indonesia.

The numerous results for a search for “halal”, “whiskey” and “MUI” on social media shows how widespread the hoax has become, with posts such as this one, having already been shared over 1,000 times.

Na'udzubillahimin dzaliiq, mau jadi apa negri ini, minuman yang memabukan yang jelas" haram, sekarang di beri label…

Posted by Anton Putra Andalaz on Thursday, October 19, 2017

The caption asks what Indonesia is becoming when “… a drink that is clearly haram has been labeled halal. I guess since MUI’s (ability to issue halal certification) has been pulled by the government, there must be a connection between this and pork that will also be labeled halal…” (and no, the government has not announced any plans to issue halal certificates for pork products).

The Crystal brand whiskey in the photos does appear to be a real product sold by a company called Emerald Beverages, which claims that its product line (including a non-alcoholic vodka and red wine) has been certified halal, though its website does not mention which Islamic body issued them the certification. At any rate, the product is definitely not available in Indonesia and has not been certified by the country’s Halal Certification Agency.

(If you’re wondering why people would even object to an alcohol-free whiskey being labeled halal, MUI has stated that products such as alcohol-free Bintang Zero beer could not receive certification simply due to associations with the brand and product).

Many of the people spreading the hoax have specifically taken aim at Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin (who is Muslim) as a means to criticize him for taking away MUI’s halal authority. Lukman took to Twitter to reply to one user drawing attention to the hoax.

User Yusuf Muhammad‏ wrote “This defamation addressed to minister @lukmansaifuddin is cruel and barbaric. Already thousands that share and believe it.”

Lukman responded, “Those who slander abuse public reason. They think the public will simply believe in something that makes no sense at all.”

Fake news and hoaxes relating to the conspiracy theory that President Joko Widodo’s administration is attempting to undermine Islam in Indonesia (fueled in large part by his very real moves to disband Hizb Ut Tahrir and other Islamist organizations) have been used extensively by enemies of the current administration and we’ll probably start to see them even more frequently in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election.

 

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