JAKARTA: A microwave oven stood out among an array of appliances in an electrical household goods shop, with a colourful display cabinet touting it as “the first certified halal microwave in Indonesia”.
Produced by Japanese electronics manufacturer Sharp, the item was rolled out in Muslim-majority Indonesia last year to offer peace of mind to consumers who want products that are deemed permissible according to Islamic law.
In addition to several microwave oven models, four of Sharp’s refrigerators and a freezer are also halal-certified, bearing the green certificate issued by the country’s Muslim clerical body.
“As an electronics manufacturer, Sharp Indonesia has the responsibility to inform consumers about the condition of its refrigerators because they are used to store food,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia’s product strategy manager for refrigerator Mr Afka Adhitya told CNA.
"We don't use animal parts that are haram (forbidden by Islamic law)," he added.
“Our consumers have responded quite positively to our halal fridge. Since we first launched it last year, the sales have gone up.”
Mr Adhitya added that the halal certification is the company’s attempt to comply with the government’s law, which mandates that every product claimed to be halal must have a certificate issued by the government.
The law was passed in Oct 17 for food and beverages, after five years of discussion.
The halal certificates also aimed at creating added value for business, but not every product needs to be halal certified, said Mr Mastuki, head of halal registration and certification centre of Indonesia’s Halal Product Guarantee Agency.
“If the product does not contain elements of animal, then there’s no need for a halal certificate.
“But those which do, say, medical devices such as pacemakers that may have components that originate from animal bones, then they need to be certified to ensure that the animal bones are halal and not haram,” Mr Mastuki explained.
Other examples of products that may need halal certifications are shoes, bags and clothes, he added.
For now, the halal certificate is only compulsory for food and beverages, including those produced by small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as street vendors.
Other non-food products will be required to have the halal certificate from 2021 onwards, but those who do not adhere to the law will only be punished beginning 2024. The exact penalty is still being discussed.
CATCHING UP ON ISLAMIC ECONOMY
Products that are certified halal are widely available in Indonesia, where about 90 per cent of the 260 million people are Muslims.
Despite it being a country with the largest Muslim population, it is still lagging behind neighbouring Malaysia on Islamic economy, according to Thomson Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy (GIE) 2018/2019 report.
Malaysia ranked top with a GIE indicator score of 127, while Indonesia came in 10th with 45, based on factors such as halal food, Islamic finance, halal travel, modest fashion, halal media and recreation, and halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Although this is not the primary reason, the new law does aim to improve Indonesia’s competitiveness in terms of being an Islamic economy, said Mr Mastuki.
“From a macro perspective, we do hope the halal certificates will have an impact.
“With better halal production processes, enhanced public awareness of halal products and increased competitiveness, clearly there will be an effect economically,” he said.
Until recently, the certificates were issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council, and business owners have to fork out several million rupiah to get their products certified.
With the new law, business and product owners also have to pay to register their ventures but the exact amount has yet to be decided. The fees will likely be determined based on the business size and product types.
Mr Mastuki assured street food vendors that they would be given special treatment, and might be exempted from paying the fee to obtain the certificate.
This came as good news for Mr Sarman, who has been selling homemade steamed buns at the streets of Jakarta for the last 23 years.
The 47-year-old does not have a halal certificate, but has painted “halal” on the window of his wagon.
“Bakpau is usually associated with pork, but I make my bun with chicken. I make them myself so I know the process,” Mr Sarman told CNA.
“I write this (the halal sign) myself, and many have asked me about it.”
Mr Sarman said he has heard of the new regulation and would be glad if the government can help him obtain the halal certificate for free.
Mdm Hermawati Setyorinny, chairwoman of the Indonesian Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise Association, welcomed the government’s new regulation on halal certificates as long as the application process is easy, affordable and free of bureaucracy.
“So far that’s our challenge. The government has to work together with organisations which can help them on the ground,” she said.
HALAL PARK IN THE CITY
The rise of the Islamic lifestyle in Indonesia has prompted the Ministry of State Owned Entreprises to open Jakarta’s first halal park at the capital’s international sporting venue Gelora Bung Karno.
With shops offering Muslim fashion and halal food, the park caters to the halal lifestyle of Indonesians and foreign visitors.
When launching the 250 billion rupiah (US$ 17.8 million) project in April, President Joko Widodo said the halal industry should drive Indonesia's economy.
The 21,000 sq m park is expected to be fully operational by 2020. Only 17 out of the 40 shops are occupied so far.
“We want to improve micro, small and medium enterprises in Indonesia. We have to evaluate the tenants’ food hygiene and their products before they can join our park,” said Mr Christian, head of the halal park who goes by one name.
“There are strict regulations on who can be our tenants, and we will support them to get the halal certificates.”
The park will appeal to consumers – both Muslims and non-Muslims – who are seeking out halal-certified products for quality and safety.
Mdm Amalia Pissano said she is comforted by the fact that she can get halal-certified makeup in the market.
The 36-year-old public servant, who decided to don a hijab (headscarf) a few years ago, said she started using halal-certified makeup when she got pregnant.
“There are some cosmetic ingredients which are believed to be unsafe for pregnant women, so I started researching on Wardah (an Indonesian halal-certified makeup brand).
“After that, I continued exploring other halal-certified brands for variety,” Mdm Pissano said.
Jakarta-based lecturer Yuliana Pakpahan, who is not a Muslim, told CNA she also uses halal-certified makeup.
“I like the colours and the affordable price. The quality is good and the makeup is long-lasting,” she said.
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CAREFUL NOT TO BECOME OBSESSED WITH ISLAMIC LIFESTYLE, WARNS SCHOLAR
While the majority of Muslims in Indonesia practise a moderate form of the religion, Islamic lifestyle has become increasingly popular, noted Islamic scholar Rumadi Ahmad.
The Chairperson of Nahdlatul Ulama’s Human Resources and Research Institute - Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisation - cautioned that problems might arise if people are too obsessed with becoming more Islamic.
“It has to be clear that this move (new law on halal certificate) is not a path to become an Islamic state,” said Mr Ahmad, who is also a Syariah and law lecturer at Jakarta’s Islamic Syarif Hidayatullah University.