How halal is your kitchen? Before now, this was a pretty easy question to answer. As long as your cabinets and fridge were free of pork and alcohol, the answer was always, oh, it's 100 percent halal. But can a kitchen truly be considered halal if your appliances haven't been certified by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)? This is a question that Japanese electronic manufacturer SHARP wants Indonesian consumers to think long and hard about.
Why? Because they just released Indonesia's first halal-certified fridge. Leave it to capitalism to make you worry about things you never even thought were an issue.
Apparently modern refrigerators contain some kind of pig byproducts. I have no idea how that's possible, but, if it's true, it's a brilliant marketing campaign for Ramadan. Andri Adi Utomo, Domestic National Sales Senior GM of SHARP Indonesia, told the local press that his fridge was the only halal certified on the market, so there's no way it can "contaminate" the halal food inside. Other fridges? He wasn't so sure.
Now without getting into the specifics of how that would even be possible (is the fridge full of pig's blood or something?) the idea of halal certified appliances opens the door to a million other questions, like is everything else I own haram as well? Are there hidden pigs in my car? My smartphone? My bed?
The internet quickly tore into the halal SHARP fridge with a flurry of jokes, asking questions like, so if we store alcohol and pork in here, will it become halal?
The MUI defended the certification by arguing that all manufacturers need ensure that their appliances don't secretly contain pig byproducts. “We need to make sure that the fridge is halal so we can consume the food in there,” Hassanudin AF, a of the MUI's fatwa commission, told local media.
This fridge isn't the first strange product to receive a halal stamp in Indonesia. We've had halal hijabs, halal detergents, and halal cat food. It's almost like someone is making money off all these halal certifications or something, wink, wink.
But if the MUI is issuing certificates on all kinds of stuff, then we have a few ideas for what else could use a halal stamp.
Why aren't smartphones halal? Nearly everyone has one, nearly everyone is obsessed with buying a better one, but no one is thinking about all the non-halal things you can do with your phone. You can gamble on it. Use it to watch porn, order some pork for lunch, spread fake news, send nudes over WhatsApp. I mean, come on. It's a pocket-sized sin machine.
Maybe we need a phone that blocks all haram content. It would honestly be so peaceful to be able to just shut-off all this negativity and use a phone again.
TRAVEL AGENCIES FOR HAJJ AND UMRAH
Is there anything more malicious that using religion to commit a crime? There's been a string of cases recently where hajj and umrah tour agencies were accused of siphoning-off people's funds and splurging on fancy homes and overseas spending sprees. Maybe we need someone to check these agencies out to ensure that our money is actually going to be used for a pilgrimage instead of funding fashion shows in New York.
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING FOREIGN
Xenophobia is pretty popular in Indonesia these days. Whether its foreign workers, foreign produce, or foreign pop culture, it's all evil and a sign of negative Western influences worming their way into our pure Eastern culture. Or, at least that's the story if you listen to some people.
So what if, instead of just lumping all foreign companies into the evil import category, we have a registry where we can see which ones are the most halal? Would that stop all the complaints, and maybe shift people's attention away from, say Starbucks coffee, to, umm, I don't know, the foreign mining companies that have been exploiting Papua for decades? No idea, but a girl can dream.
THE INDONESIAN ULEMA COUNCIL (MUI)
It's no secret that the MUI makes money from issuing halal certifications. But how much they make? That is a secret. Back in 2016, the Commission for Public Information (KIP) asked the MUI to show how much they were making off halal certifications for food, drugs, and cosmetics in their annual financial reports. We still don't have any official figures.
The MUI charges between Rp 2 million ($141 USD) and Rp 4.5 million ($319 USD) per product, and the certification needs to be renewed every two years. The news site Tirto did a quick estimate of how much money the MUI potentially made between 2010 and 2015 and the answer was pretty astounding— Rp 89.9 billion ($6.3 million USD).
Maybe the MUI should release its financial reports to we can see exactly how big of a business this actually is. Transparency is important in the halal certification world, because, sometimes, financial reports can be a bit like fridges. All seems good until you see what's really going on inside.