28 July 2010

It's MUI Fatwa Time...

Pinch me, pinch me, I must be asleep and dreaming. The MUI has just issued a fatwa on infotainment (gossip shows) and sex change operations, stating that both are prohibited under Islam. I would like to say wake up and smell the coffee, but I am reluctant to remind them that they almost banned Luwak Coffee last week. It is probably best not to give them any ideas, heaven forbid they will be issuing a fatwa next week banning the MUI.

Fatwas are man's way of feeling important in God's world. The cold hard reality is that if God is real then s/he certainly does not need the assistance of mere mortals in the application of God's laws. I would reckon God can probably sort this one out on his / her own. In any event, where does man get off thinking that he has the requisite skills to determine and then decide what God has in mind? May the wrath of Allah come down on you, and swiftly!

According to the crotchety old men at the MUI responsible for this silliness, it is forbidden for Muslims to gossip. The rationale is that gossiping requires Muslims to expose the private details and lives of others in the public domain. Ah, yes it does. Good one fellas, you worked that one out all by yourself. Now, some gossip is indeed factual.

For example, the father of Sheila Marcia Joseph's child has recently been exposed publicly. The name of the father does not yet appear on the child's birth certificate yet. So, I am wondering why discussing such gossip is prohibited in Islam. Perhaps one of my Muslim brothers or sisters can enlighten me as to where in the Koran it says that factual gossip is prohibited.

Not satisfied with banning gossip, the MUI has gone the whole nine yards and stated that profiting from infotainment or gossip is haram. What? So, if a company advertises during an infotainment show then it has broken some law in Islam? Wow. Nevertheless, it appears that there are some exceptions, albeit very limited. If the gossip is to warn people then it is permitted, it is mubah. Presumably this means that gossip such as the recent Nazriel "Ariel" Irham, Luna Maya, and Cut Tari videos would fall under this exception as the gossip clearly highlights the dangers of filming yourself bonking your brains out.

My guess would be that the MUI would have been better issuing a fatwa about defamation, slander, and libel. But, no matter, anything that the MUI issues is not legally binding on Indonesian citizens. Indonesians cannot be worldly punished for ignoring the silly fatwas issued by the MUI.  It all comes down to whether Indonesians truly believe that the MUI is the sole interpreter of God's words on Indonesian soil. If not, then fatwa away boys!

What is truly funny about this whole infotainment fatwa was that the MUI had intended to discuss welfare issues, but dropped welfare in favour of outlawing gossip shows. This clearly shows that the MUI cares more about populist issues and getting their names in print than they do about the religious care of their flocks.

The other fatwas issued covered the trade in organs and marriages of convenience. I am an organ donor. The fatwa prohibits the poor kampung fellow from selling a kidney to a rich Singaporean willing to pay USD 50K. However, it does not prohibit organ transplants And, it does not prohibit Muslims from receiving a non-Muslim organ. Although, any transplant does need to be witnessed by two Muslim doctors. I wonder how a Muslim would feel about getting a kidney from a Jew? Interestingly, the fatwa considers animal to human transplants and canvasses the idea of transplants from unclean animals in an emergency situation.

The final worthy mention is the fatwa on sex change operations. Once again, there is an exception here; sound medical reasons. Any takers on "sound medical reasons"? This must require a diagnosis from a psychologist along the lines of, "yes, he was born male, but he identifies only as a woman."

No apologies for the length. The point probably could have been made this way:

These fatwas are unnecessary as Indonesians are more than capable of working out these issues on their own and without the involvement of the MUI.

I wonder when the MUI will get around to issuing a fatwa banning the FPI?

Ho hum...

10 comments:

Ferdian said...

When men acting as God, they intentionally (or unintentionally) lifting themselves up. Whoever lifting her/himself up, s/he will fall because pride does lead to falling.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Ferdian...

Thanks for commenting. I don't seem to get a lot these days ;)

I do not have anything against people lifting themselves up and trying to be better people. I do have a problem with men pretending to know what God means, and subsequently behaving like Gods themselves.

If one truly believes in a God, then accompanying that belief must be the idea that God knows best and that God has a grand plan for all of us. Therefore, in simple terms we should not try to interfere. In the end, God will sort us all out, right?

Now, if one does not want to believe in God, then that is a choice for them.

Harry Sufehmi said...

Your blog reminded me that I need to update MY blog more often :) shame on me ***head hangs down in shame***

Anyway, here it goes:

but I am reluctant to remind them that they almost banned Luwak Coffee last week. It is probably best not to give them any ideas, heaven forbid they will be issuing a fatwa next week banning the MUI.

MUI works by answering people's questions. Yes, people ask them questions, then the list of questions got prioritized (probably sorted by "most asked" criteria, or such), then MUI will try to answer them as best as they can.
They got tens of questions everyday from people (ref: http://twitter.com/nadirsyah/status/18905482709)

Consider this; if you ask me a question, and I ignored it, what do you think of me?
I wouldn't be surprised if you'd think of me as a rude prick :)

Same with MUI. If they can answer a question, which happens to get asked a LOT, but they don't - well, naturally a lot of people will get pretty pissed off :)

So one day somebody asked about Kopi Luwak. There was this initial discussion regarding Luwak Coffee, the fact that it was, err, "encapsulated" in, err, crap.
So MUI thought, well, that's not halal, in fact that's quite yucky. Then they closed the discussion for the day, no fatwa yet.

However, the media picked it up. And blow it up. So people thought that MUI have banned the Luwak Coffee.

Anyway, after MUI have discussed the topic thoroughly, they came to conclusion that Luwak Coffee is halal, because somewhere in the process it got cleaned.
So they released the fatwa - and the media said instead, "Yay, MUI has repented!"

(cue myself ROFL-ing)

btw; it was PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) Jawa Barat who asked about Luwak Coffee. MUI consulted & discussed for 3 days, before they decided on the fatwa.
(ref: http://twitter.com/nadirsyah/status/19025955077)


(to be continued, 4096 characters limitation...)

Harry Sufehmi said...

These fatwas are unnecessary as Indonesians are more than capable of working out these issues on their own and without the involvement of the MUI.

Wellllll.... after witnessing the questions that were asked to MUI, I wouldn't be so sure :)

And some are not even MUI's ! Remember the uproar on fatwas against Rebonding & Facebook ?
Yes, they are not from MUI. But somehow, the media spinned it, so MUI took the blame.

Don't take everything from the media on face value.

Personally I've been in touch with the media several times, in very good terms. And they still managed to misquote me :)
You can imagine yourself, what will happen if they came to MUI with intent to sensationalize the findings...

btw; I'm not blaming the people from the media. It's just how it works. I know many of them personally, and understand the pressure they're under. It's pretty sad really, I don't think I'd be able to function under such pressure.
So we just need to educate ourselves, to enable us to filter good information from the bad ones.



it is forbidden for Muslims to gossip. The rationale is that gossiping requires Muslims to expose the private details and lives of others in the public domain. Ah, yes it does. Good one fellas, you worked that one out all by yourself.

There are a lot of problems in relation to gossiping / infotainment :

# Huge time waster : Mr Smith said, "Time is money". With so many people watching infotainment, driving up the rating, instead of being productive - why are we wondering about Indonesian's poor state of economy ?

# Huge time waster : Have you peeked into a poor's house lately? Their house is basically built from cardboard and junk metal - but they can afford buying TV. I don't even have one in my house. The mother then will be fixated on that box most of the day; while their children are left with little love, care, and guidance.

Infotainment is like the poor's drugs, hallucinogen. They escaped reality with it - instead of dealing with the issues at hand.
That's just not right....

# Benefit ? I still fail to find the benefit of these (gossipy) infotainment shows.
What's to benefit from showing various artists' stupidity and silliness?? I hate s(h)i(t)netron from similar reasons, but that's for another blogpost.

# Intrusion of Privacy : I know the West is big on the privacy thing, and turned out Islam is actually pretty similar. Gossips, in many cases, are intrusions into one's privacy. And such are looked down upon in Islam.

Real journalists (AJI and friends) also frowns upon Infotainment for this reason - while their work are about issues on public domains; many infotainment workers are infringing people's private area & their privacy for their own benefit. This is considered to be a serious breach of journalism code of ethic.

# Relationship wrecker: Face it, to be gossiped hurts. To gossip IS fun, and I do admit so. Great fun actually.
But, I don't like to inflict pain on others, pain which I don't like to experience myself. So I try my best to refrain from gossiping.

# etc, etc

(to be continued again...)

Harry Sufehmi said...

Now, some gossip is indeed factual.

If it's fact, then it's gossip.
If it's not true, then it's libel / slander.

Provisions are made in Islam on cases of public-interest (cases in public area, not a private matter); say: corruption case. Then it'll have to be made public.
And there are simply too many example of such cases from the time of Muhammad and, later, his companions.


Perhaps one of my Muslim brothers or sisters can enlighten me as to where in the Koran it says that factual gossip is prohibited.

The gory details can be found in various articles such as [ this (Alia)] and [ this (Waspada)] and [ this (NU) ].

Gossip is compared to cannibalism, due to its severity and the trouble it may cause in the society. Also, if you know how Islam frowns upon Riba / bank's interest (Lesser Riba's sin is compared to the sin of having intercourse with one's mother) - well, the highest level of sin for Riba is on par to the sin of gossiping.

So it seems that when Muhammad said that he came only to make people to become better, he did mean business.


I wonder when the MUI will get around to issuing a fatwa banning the FPI?

They already issued fatwa on terrorism. Guess that already covers it :)

It all comes down to whether Indonesians truly believe that the MUI is the sole interpreter of God's words on Indonesian soil.

According to Nadirsyah, no.

And yes, you don't need to take it so seriously if you have good reason to disagree with it. MUI's fatwas are just their own opinions (alright, a well-discussed opinion) - and like how they're entitled to their opinions, so are you.

So there you go. Hope it provides you with another interesting perspective on the issue.
Cheers !

Harry Sufehmi said...

Gosh... I just realized that my comments looked like as if I blogged in **your** blog :D

Hope you don't mind :D

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Thanks for the MUI lesson. Not sure that I needed it, but I am committed to learning new things every day :)

Yes, the MUI is reactive. Are you suggesting that they are never pro-active. I am sure they get hundreds of questions. Hopefully, they are not exclusively through twitter though.

Not necessarily on the "rude prick" front. But, to each their own on that one.

Now for Part II...

I do not take everything in the media on face value. I wonder though whether this is a defense of the MUI and its existence as an institution or the defense of the religion that they represent.

The fact that it is a time waster, is of no perceived benefit, or an invasion of one's privacy are subjective determinations and not objective. It is, for example, a very long bow to draw to make any correlation between Indonesians fascination for gossip and low productivity.

Ouch, real journalists? Are you serious. This sounds like a little bit of professional egotism / arrogance on the part of AJI. Infotainment journalists are real journalists, they only cater for a different market or demographic.

Code of ethics and a breach of the code. Once again, are you serious? How so?

The rest I will address later...I am off to do some tutoring...

No, I do not mind your comments being long. The longer the better...nothing like some to and fro of substance :)

Harry Sufehmi said...

Are you suggesting that they are never pro-active.

Well, that was never my suggestion. Sorry if it seemed that way :)


I am sure they get hundreds of questions. Hopefully, they are not exclusively through twitter though.

Actually they came very late to the Twitter party. Their account, @mui_indonesia, was opened just several days ago (19th July 2010).
And earlier tweets sometimes doesn't even feel very official :)

Anyway, always good to see they opened up & reached out to us Online folks.

I do not take everything in the media on face value. I wonder though whether this is a defense of the MUI and its existence as an institution

That's my initial thoughts as well. But when I crosschecked straight from the sources, example: http://www.mui.or.id, it became clear that the media was mistaken in a lot of cases.

btw; MUI's website is currently down since the opening of their Twitter account. Which is both a good & bad sign :)


Ouch, real journalists? Are you serious. This sounds like a little bit of professional egotism / arrogance on the part of AJI. Infotainment journalists are real journalists, they only cater for a different market or demographic.

Code of ethics and a breach of the code. Once again, are you serious? How so?


Journalists, due to the nature of their work, will face a lot of difficulties. Which may involve themselves, but most likely affect a much wider spectrum of the society. The journalist's code of ethics have evolved to provide guidance for them during their work :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards#Slander_and_libel_considerations

Us business folks called these guidelines as "best practices". But since a journalist's work can touch a lot of social & moral issues, many consider these as their "code of ethics".

Some of those were also adopted into laws in various countries, giving it legal strength.

And as you can see, the code do respect privacy very much. Which is not the case with infotainments.

The debate with AJI & infotainment workers was very real. Especially when infotainment workers threatened to sue Luna Maya with the ITE Law (UU ITE) - a law which contain threats to the journalists themselves ! Irony through stupidity :)
A lot of journalists were enraged, so later the infotainment workers dropped the idea.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry S...

I am not making any arguments about defamation, slander, and libel specifically in this post.

If you want to know my opinion on criminal defamation laws in Indonesia, then a quick search of the blog will reveal that in no time at all.

Defamation, slander, and libel are what they are. There are defenses against those allegations if and when they are made.

The infotaimment journalists that were planning on suing Luna Maya were silly to make their intent known. I wrote about that at the time.

I am familiar with the various elements of journalist codes of conduct and ethics. I was one ;) Privacy and public figures is a tricky one and sometimes people cross the line, and this is not only infotainment journalists. But, in short, my point really was that irrespective of what AJI say infotainment journalists are real journalists irrespective of what "news" they pursue.

Enjoy your evening.

Oh, and thanks for following my blog. I will return the favour (if I haven't already)...

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