Enjoining right, forbidding wrong: The MUI and Indonesian Islam
July-September 2017
By: Bastiaan Scherpen

Progressive-minded leaders within NU are clearly fed up with the status quo within the MUI, despite the fact that a person they should consider as one of their own is now in charge. Imam Aziz, one of the chairmen of NU’s executive board, in the immediate aftermath of the issuance of the edict against Basuki, said the body urgently needed to be reformed. “The MUI’s internal regulations have to be explained and made available to the people, so there is no confusion,” he was quoted as saying. Liberal NU sources have said they backed Amin’s election after Mustofa Bisri refused to take the position because of an internal rift in the organization, meaning they had to find an alternative. They believed Amin could be controlled, but that appears not to be the case.

Halal funding

Another issue that has sparked complaints over the years is the lack of budgetary transparency within the MUI. The organization receives state funding but is not an official government body, and as such cannot be forced to undergo audits by the Supreme Audit Agency. In recent years, pressure has been building on the government to audit the MUI. The organization also receives significant income as part of its role in halal certification. According to one unverified claim, the MUI rakes in up to Rp 96 trillion ($7.2 billion) per year from its halal certification activities, which is crucial to any food and beverage company’s success on the Indonesian market. That figure may seem high, and Amin has described the number as “crazy talk.” He did, however, confirm that the organization receives Rp 4 billion ($300,000) per year from the government. 

Lawmakers have for years been arguing that the Indonesia government should be the beneficiary of halal certification funds, but with little success. In a recent development in this ongoing struggle, the government set up its own Halal Product Guarantee Agency (BPJPH), but that body’s role remains limited. “The role of the MUI is (still) very big because fatwas come from the MUI,” Nur Syam, secretary general of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said last November. “The government (through the BPJPH) only facilitates the registration and the issuance of the (halal) certificates. That’s all.”

State corporatism

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