The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest clerical body that also long held sole authority in providing halal certifications in Indonesia, is taking legal action to regain that authority ahead of the government’s imminent take over of the certification process.
In 2014, the government passed the Law on Halal Product Assurance (UU LJH), which mandates that a new regulatory body, the Halal Product Assurance Organizing Agency (BPJPH), oversee the halal certification process and issuances in Indonesia.
BPJPH, which operates under the Religious Affairs Ministry, will take over the mandate previously held by MUI’s Food and Drug Analysis Agency (LPPOM MUI) when UU LJH takes effect at the end of October this year.
While that means that the government will become the halal authority in Indonesia, BPJPH will still refer to MUI’s fatwas (religious edicts) in issuing halal certificates.
But LPPOM MUI wants its authority back. As reported by Detik, the MUI-run agency has filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court against certain clauses in UU LJH, particularly the transfer of the halal certification mandate to BPJPH.
In the lawsuit, LPPOM MUI argued that it has been issuing halal certificates in Indonesia for 30 years so it’s the organization best equipped for the task. It also argued that halal certification should be the domain of ulemas, not the government, and that MUI, which is comprised of members from various Islamic organizations in Indonesia, should have “absolute authority” over it.
In March, the Constitutional Court rejected a judicial review of UU LJH filed by a lawyer who challenged the law as unconstitutional.
A lot of money could be riding on UU LJH. Before its passage into law, halal certification under MUI was voluntary, though the council has long been criticized for not being transparent about the money it gained from applicants. Under UU LJH, halal certification becomes mandatory for all producers of halal products, who may be sanctioned by the government if they don’t register their products.