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Halal certification bodies clear up confusion over Christmas greetings on food

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2019

Gemma Holliani Cahya, Jakarta – The institutions mandated to issue halal certification have assured the public that there is no regulation banning food and beverage companies from writing non-Islamic holiday greetings on their products.The statements came in the wake of a ruckus over a Tous Les Jours outlet in Pacific Place shopping mall that displayed a notice saying that to comply with the Halal Product Assurance Law, the store would refuse to write Christmas or Chinese New Year greetings.

The South Korean bakery chain clarified that the notice was not an official company policy and that it was investigating the incident.

Halal Certification Agency (BPJPH) head Sukoso said that both Law No. 33/2014 on halal product assurance and Government Regulation No.31/2019 on the implementation of halal certification did not regulate customized messages written on cakes or cards.

"The BPJPH has not issued such a regulation," Sukoso told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Contacted separately on Saturday, the Indonesian Ulema Council's Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics (LPPOM MUI) deputy head, Sumunar Jati, said customer requests for messages written on products had never been regulated in any halal system.

"There is a regulation about the brand names of halal products (...) But we do not regulate what customers want to write on a halal certified product. They [the store] needs to learn about the halal assurance system. (...) This must not happen again. The management must be more aware of these sensitive issues," Jati said.

Indonesian Food and Beverage Producers Association (GAPMMI) chairman Adhi Lukman confirmed there were no laws that regulated greetings on cakes. "I think this is just a misunderstanding between the store staff," he said.

The 2014 Halal Product Assurance law stipulates that it is mandatory for all food products to obtain halal certification starting Oct. 17. Previously, the policy was voluntary, used by many producers of food and beverages, cosmetics and medicinal products looking to ensure customer confidence in their products.

Debate over whether Muslims can say "Merry Christmas" to Christians recurs annually as the holiday approaches in Indonesia. Some Indonesian Muslims believe that wishing Christians a Merry Christmas is a violation of sharia. Others do not.

"This usually happens before Christmas. It also happened last year. We heard the news that [some stores] prohibited their staff from wearing Christmas-themed accessories. This is a sensitive issue for Indonesians who are still trying to come together after being divided during the presidential and regional head elections," Stefanus Ridwan, chairman of the Indonesian Shopping Center Association (APPBI).

Stefanus urged Tous Les Jours to not only publish a press release clarifying that its management was not aware of the policy of its Pacific Place outlet but also explain what really happened to the public.

"Tous Les Jours should be more clear and open about this issue so their customers can forgive them," he added.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/11/24/halal-certification-bodies-clear-up-confusion-over-christmas-greetings-on-food.html