03 August 2010
I have said this before, I will say it again, but I say it now...the MUI is a waste of space. The MUI or the Indonesian Council of Ulemas is a group of crotchety old men with nothing better to do than sit around handing out fatwas left, right, and center however it sees fit. Yes, I appreciate there are some out there that will argue that they are merely responding to requests that concerned Indonesian citizens pose on issues of "what is" and "what is not" permitted in Islam.
The MUI in its infinite wisdom has decided that a meningococcal vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline is haram or forbidden because it uses an enzyme in the production process that is derived from the humble pig. I appreciate that pigs are najis or ritually impure in Islam, but this is the only way that the vaccine can be produced.
There are claims that the vaccine can be produced without the pig enzyme. However, these claims have not been subject to medical review and the companies making them have not put forward the scientific evidence for scrutiny.
The vaccine production process involves the use of the pig enzyme. Nevertheless, the end product is cleaned in such a way that no traces of the enzyme remains. To all intents and purposes it is clean.
What is interesting is that the former Health Minister, Siti Fadillah Supari, says the MUI has issued a fatwa which is confusing. This is in fact code for, "the MUI does not know what it is talking about". It must be remembered that Supari, during her term as Health Minister, never missed an opportunity to stick it to western nations and their health practices. So, it seems unlikely she would side with GSK over the MUI unless the MUI were so wrong that the fatwa was not worth the paper it was written on.
What is truly funny, though, is that the GSK vaccine is used in both Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Why is this a big deal? Well, Saudi Arabia requires all prospective Haj pilgrims to be vaccinated against meningococcal bacteria and the possibility of contracting meningitis. The conspiracy theorists might hint that there is a need to follow the money trail on this one. The Indonesian Government had already forked out some IDR 20 billion for the GSK vaccine and will now have to fork out another IDR 50+ billion to secure enough supply of the MUI approved Novartis vaccine. Just as well I am not a conspiracy buff, eh?