03 August 2010

MUI, Huh?

It is a good thing that this is a blog, and it is my blog, because I can hold pretty much any opinion that I want and then blog it in any way, shape or form that takes my fancy.

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.

However, I would argue that when they are discussing medical and scientific matters that extend beyond the grasp of most mortals that they take the time to consult with experts in the field.

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?

Ho hum...


H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
Frankly speaking, I really hope that you are wrong, considering that MUI is the highest official religious council. However ................

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Wrong about which part?

On the conspiracy part? I have not read that anywhere else. That is nothing more than the conspiracy part of my brain kicking into gear and wondering out loud ;)

Harry Sufehmi said...

In a life-threatening situation, a Muslim can use a haram product. This is called an "emergency".

No problem at all.

But, it become a problem when a Halal alternative existed - yet, one still uses the haram one.

Logically, it also doesn't make sense - when there's a "good" one, why one still uses the "bad" one ?

This is the question over Saudi & Malaysia's decision to use GSK's vaccines; despite fact that availability of the Halal alternatives.
However, here's some facts to ponder - Saudi's actions are not always in the interest of Muslims. Same case with Malaysia, especially in the dictator's / Mahathir's rule.

One funny thing though - if vegetarians campaigned for their interest, it's all fair. But if it's about halal food; suddenly there's a lot of jeering / mocking, or even downright hostility.

Also I found it really ironic & funny that it's so MUCH easier to be certain about a food's halal status in UK (1) - than in Indonesia, the country with the biggest muslim populations.
That says it all really about our willingness to campaign for our OWN interests :) basically, we suck. Hard.

Just some more Rp 2000 from me :)
(well, until the redenomination - where it'll become Rp 2. Ha)

(1) Look for a "Vegetarian Society" logo, then check for alcohol content - if none, then it's halal.
Simple as that.

While in Indonesia, a vendor / product can claim halal - while it is not.

False advertising indeed :( anyway, not really surprising, since consumer rights is not really honored here....

Harry Sufehmi said...

Oh, one more thing - a lot of Indonesians are already feel uneasy about vaacination, because the Gov't own lack of transparency on the issue. (1)

So when this issue arose, people are pretty quick to pick it up.

Just a bit of background / context on the issue.

(1) In Philippine and some countries on Africa, there are widespread concern that some vaccinations are actually to sterilize part of the population.

Same concern in Indonesia - sometimes you get asked to be vaccinated before the marriage will be allowed by local authority. Yet, no explanation offered for the vaccine itself.

Myself just experienced it a few months ago.

Our children's school contacted us about a vaccination programme from the gov't.
Then I asked, playfully, "what's the vaccine for ?"

To my surprise - nobody, NO ONE, can answer that simple question.

Can you believe that? I asked the teachers, to the principal. Nobody knew what the vaccination was for.

I was enraged by this wanton display of carelessness and stupidity. Needless to say, my children was not included in that vaccination program.

This. Is. INDONESIA !!!! :(

Harry Sufehmi said...

Damn, just realized that my previous comment was not REALLY that coherent.

I blame it on my coffee. Damn Nescafe.


Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry S...

Working backwards, kopi tubruk always works for me.

Three comments, wow. I have been looking forward to your return. I figured an MUI post would smoke you out ;)

I understand a lot more about Islam and the practice of it than I am ever given credit for. And, that knowledge is not just from having lived in Indonesia for 15 years or so (that though is a separate point).

The question was rather whether the GSK alternative is haram and not whether it was a simple case of halal vs. haram alternatives and choosing the most halal of what is available. I was in fact questioning whether the MUI has the expertise to make this call in the first place, particularly in light of the fact that the former health minister, who I might add has a penchant for being anti-west big business, said that the GSK version was fine (red. halal?).

The post was not really a direct comment on whether Saudi Arabia always acts in the best interests of its citizens.

I am also aware of the fears that some have around vaccinations and the big picture purpose of them. Not everyone is pro-vaccine hear. There is a current flap about whether or not vaccines are part of a big government conspiracy to microchip all Australians so that they can be more easily tracked.

Weird, is all I have to say on that one, at least in the Australian context. Also, on that front, my son i fully vaccinated as required. His mum and I weighed up the risks and rewards and decided accordingly.