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"Fatwa" on smoking facing opposition

16th March 2010 | 628 Views
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Tobacconists, cigarettes makers and even the cabinet member in charge of religious affairs have voiced opposition to an edict or fatwa issued by the country`s Muslim organization Muhammadiyah declaring smoking "haram" or forbidden in Islamic law.

Considering that it is harmful to people`s health and could have other negative impacts on the people`s life, the Legal Council (Tarjih) of Muhammadiyah is of the view that smoking is no longer Makruh (should be avoided) but actually `haram`, or against Islamic law.

However, smoking is closely linked to the livelihoods of tobacco farmers and cigarette industries so that a `haram` fatwa on it will, if implemented, affect the livelihoods of millions of people and state income.

Thus, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali asked religious organizations to be wise in issuing fatwas that could affect the people`s life, particularly their livelihoods.
If religious organizations are not wise in issuing religious edicts they would create unrest in the people`s life.

"Fatwas can affect many aspects of life, not only religion but also people`s economy. So, I hope that religious organizations will be wise in issuing religious advice because it could have an impact on many sectors. If it impacts on the people`s economy it will create unrest," he said in response to ongoing polemics on the admonition issued by Muhammadiyah`s lawmaking body that smoking was haram.

Reducing the number of cigarette consumers would threaten tobacco/cigarette producers and millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the industries.
So far, cigarette industries have continued to grow in the country. Indonesia`s cigarette production in 2005 was recorded at 221.1 billion pieces. It rose to 240 billion pieces in 2006 and in 2009 it stood at about 260 billion pieces.

The Indonesian Tobacco Farmers Association (APTI) has also voiced opposition to the Muhammadiyah`s non-smoking edict. "I regret the declaration since it will have a negative impact on the social and economic sectors," APTI chairman Abdus Setyawan, said on Tuesday.

He argued the decision would affect around 700,000 tobacco farmers nationwide who were planting a total of 200,000 hectares of land with a total production of 160,000-200,000 tons of tobacco per year.

"The edict is opposed not only by tobacco farmers but also those who work in the cigarette industry," said the Jember district`s secretary for tobacco affairs.
The fatwa will affect not only tobacco farmers and cigarette industries, but also state receipts from cigarettes taxes.

"Surely it (the edict) will affect the country`s excise receipt target. We will see later how significant its effect is because right now we have not yet calculated it," Director General of Customs and Excise Thomas Sugijata said.

Thomas said that the directorate general of customs and excises would respect the edict, and would recalculate the potentials of the country`s excise receipts if the fatwa is already in force.

"We have not yet counted it. We will wait for one or two months after the fatwa has come into force before we can make any recalculations," the director general said.

The target of excise receipts for 2010 is Rp57.29 trillion, the Directorate General of Customs and Excise said in its online report. The government`s receipts from cigarette taxes have continued to increase from year to year. The state income from cigarette taxes in 2006 stood at Rp37 trillion, which rose to Rp42 trillion in 2007 and Rp46.5 trillion in 2008.

However, if the costs for all tobacco-related diseases and other negative impact are taken into account, the government`s spending would be bigger than the amount of the cigarette taxes it is receiving.

According to the chairman of the National Commission for Tobacco Control, Farid Anfasa Moeloek, who is also a former health minister, smoking has a direct impact on the people`s health and on the emergence of social ills such as drug addiction, alcoholism and violence.

The total cost of treatment of tobacco-related diseases and deaths, are higher than the total amount of receipts from tobacco/cigarette taxes. Farid mentioned a study made in 2004 which revealed that the government spent a total of Rp127 trillion in 2001 on treatment of tobacco-related diseases while the cigarette taxes it collected in the same year amounted to Rp16 trillion only.

"Tobacco consumption costs 7.5 times more than state income from tobacco excises," Farid said.

Therefore, the lawmaking body of Muhammadiyah, which in 2005 issued a fatwa that smoking was `makruh` changed its fatwa into haram.

Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin said the edict on smoking was discussed by Muhammadiyah`s lawmaking body (Mejelis Tarjih) and still constituted a legal view. It had not yet become a decision of the Majlis Tarjih which would be effective nationally.
According to plan, he said, the Central Board of the Majlis Tarjih will discuss the problem at a national meeting so that it could become an official decision by Muhammadiyah as a whole.

The legal council of the Muhammadiyah organization issued a fatwa last Tuesday (March 9) which stated that smoking, which had caused various negative impacts on the health, social and economic sectors, is haram, or unlawful based on the Islamic law.(*)