After video of anti-Ahok group leader drinking camel urine goes viral, health ministry issues warning about practice

Screengrab: @bachtiarnasir / Instagram
Screengrab: @bachtiarnasir / Instagram

Bachtiar Usir is both famous and infamous for many reasons. An ultra-conservative ulema (Islamic scholar), he is the leader of the the National Movement to Guard the Indonesian Council of Ulama’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), an umbrella organization for hardline Islamist groups that organized the politically-charged blasphemy protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

He has been accused of sending money to forces supporting ISIS and has talked about targeting rich Chinese Indonesians for not being “generous” enough.

Most recently, he’s been all over the news for drinking camel urine (mixed with camel milk).

Hadits Seputar Kencing dan Susu Unta. ———————- "Beberapa orang dari 'Ukl atau 'Urainah datang ke Madinah, namun mereka tidak tahan dengan iklim Madinah hingga mereka pun sakit. Beliau lalu memerintahkan mereka untuk mendatangi unta dan meminum air seni dan susunya. Maka mereka pun berangkat menuju kandang unta (zakat), ketika telah sembuh, mereka membunuh pengembala unta Nabi shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam dan membawa unta-untanya. Kemudian berita itu pun sampai kepada Nabi shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam menjelang siang. Maka beliau mengutus rombongan untuk mengikuti jejak mereka, ketika matahari telah tinggi, utusan beliau datang dengan membawa mereka. Beliau lalu memerintahkan agar mereka dihukum, maka tangan dan kaki mereka dipotong, mata mereka dicongkel, lalu mereka dibuang ke pada pasir yang panas. Mereka minta minum namun tidak diberi." Abu Qilabah mengatakan, "Mereka semua telah mencuri, membunuh, murtad setelah keimanan dan memerangi Allah dan rasul-Nya." (HR. Bukhari: 226) – "Sesungguhnya dalam air kencing unta dan susunya mengandung obat bagi penyakit di dalam perut mereka." (HR. Ahmad: 2545) – "'Anbasah berkata; Telah menceritakan kepada kami Anas mengenai hal ini dan itu. Aku berkata; dan kepadaku Anas menceritakannya, ia berkata; suatu kaum pernah menemui Nabi shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam seraya berkata; Cuaca kota ini sudah tidak cocok bagi kami. Maka Nabi shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam bersabda: ini ada beberapa hewan ternak milik kami, maka keluarlah kalian dan minumlah dari susu dan air kencingnya. Lalu mereka pun meminum susu dan air kencing unta hingga mereka segar kembali…

A post shared by Bachtiar Nasir (@bachtiarnasir) on

In the video posted to his personal Instagram page, which has already been viewed more than 200,000 times, Bachtiar can be seen at the Hudaibiyah Camel Farm in Saudi Arabia. Noting their claimed medicinal properties (the accompanying text on Instagram contains verses from Islamic hadiths in which the Prophet Mohammed recommended others to drink camel urine and milk), Bachtiar mixes the yellow and white liquids together and notes the concoction tastes both bitter and rich, before getting somebody else to try it while others off-screen can be heard laughing.

The video quickly went viral and set off quite a bit of debate amongst Indonesians about the dangers and virtues of drinking camel urine and milk, which is indeed a practice condoned and recommended by Islamic teachings as a cure for ailments. Researchers in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries have claimed there is evidence the desert mammal’s bodily fluids can even be used to treat cancer.

However, the Indonesian government has made its position on the imbibing of camel urine clear. In response to Bachtiar’s video, the Health Ministry’s head of communications, Oscar Primadi, gave a statement to CNN Indonesia warning others not to follow the GNPF-MUI head’s example.

Oscar said the main concern is that people who drink camel urine are at high risk of developing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) otherwise known as camel flu. He noted that the World Health Organization has also warned against the practice due to MERS concerns, and in fact has recommended that all contact with camels be avoided as much as possible to avoid spreading the serious infection. He also mentioned that mixing camel milk with the urine did not decrease the risks.

Noorhaidi Hasan, a professor of Islamic politics at the State Islamic University of Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta, told BBC Indonesia that the heated social media debate over the benefits of camel urine is partly due to Indonesia’s political polarization between those “branded as conservative Islam and as progressive Islam,” a polarization he said would continue through to the 2019 election and shape Indonesian politics for quite some time.

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