Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Muhammadiyah Bans Smoking

The Jakarta Globe, Anita Rachman | November 14, 2011

The country’s second-largest Islamic group has thrown its full weight behind efforts to rid Indonesia of its heavy smoking habit.

After issuing a fatwa in March 2010 to tell its tens of millions of followers that it was religiously unacceptable to light up, Muhammadiyah is now set to declare all of its health and education institutions smoke-free zones.

Muhammadiyah operates some 500 health institutions such as hospitals and clinics, about 15,000 schools from the level of kindergarten to high school and nearly 200 higher education institutions. It also operates 350 orphanages across the country.

“On Monday [today], we are going to launch our nationwide program that, starting now, Muhammadiyah’s offices, enterprises and forums are officially smoke-free areas,” Syafiq A. Mughni, Muhammadiyah’s chairman for health issues, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday. The campaign will kick off at the Muhammadiyah headquarters in Jakarta.

“This is also meant to protect the young generation from cigarette smoke exposure and to create a healthy living environment,” Syafiq said.

He added that the campaign did not mean Muhammadiyah was telling people to stop smoking or banning tobacco cultivation. “But we want people to smoke in the right place. Not in public facility areas.”

Syafiq, who is a professor at the Sunan Ampel Islamic State Institute (IAIN) in Surabaya, said Muhammadiyah understood there would always be people breaking the rules, but officials would not halt their efforts to enforce the regulation.

When coming out with a fatwa against smoking for its followers last year, Muhammadiyah equated smoking to suicide, something sinful in Islam.

Syafiq said the non-smoking zones in Muhammadiyah premises would be applicable to all, members or not.

Zainuddin Maliki, rector of Muhammadiyah University in Surabaya, said the new rule would increase pressure on smokers. But, he added, “It won’t be a problem for us. At our university, we banned smoking some time ago.”

While Muhammadiyah takes a tough stand against smoking, the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, is not likely to follow suit.

NU has defined smoking as makruh, or a habit that is best avoided but does not constitute a sin. Unlike Muhammadiyah, it never has issued a fatwa against smoking.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), however, has declared smoking to be haram, or forbidden, in public places, for pregnant women and for children. The MUI is the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs and includes representatives of Muhammadiyah and NU.

NU deputy chairman Slamet Effendy Yusuf told the Globe that the group applauded Muhammadiyah’s move. “The thing with NU is, our senior clerics, most of them are heavy smokers,” he said. “We couldn’t even stop some of our students in Islamic boarding schools from smoking. But we are going to try,” he said.

Douglas Bettcher, the director of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, has said that low taxes, low prices and the lack of graphic warnings on Indonesian cigarette packaging were contributing to a pro-smoking environment in the country.

An estimated 200,000 Indonesians die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.

Anti-tobacco activists have accused the government of being reluctant to impose strict controls on tobacco because the industry generates significant tax revenue and is one of the nation’s major employers.


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Muhammadiyah Bans Smoking, Calling it ‘Suicide’

The Jakarta Globe, Anita Rachman | March 09, 2010

Comparing smoking to suicide, one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations on Tuesday issued a fatwa banning followers from lighting up.

Yunahar Ilyas, chairman of the fatwa committee at Muhammadiyah, said that since suicide was forbidden in Islam, so should smoking also be forbidden.

“Smoking negatively affects our bodies, killing us slowly,” he said, “therefore it is haram [forbidden] because Islam forbids suicide.”

The decision was reached after the fatwa body convened a meeting in Yogyakarta on Sunday.

Aside from issuing the ban on smoking, Muhammadiyah, the nation’s second-largest Muslim organization, is also expected to urge the government to immediately ratify the World Heath Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Indonesia is one of just four countries that has no yet ratified the FCTC, which came into force in February 2005. The convention mandates that the 152 nations that signed implement effective methods to reduce tobacco use.

“We have studied it comprehensively and believe that smoking results in more negative impacts than those that are positive,” Yunahar said. “It can affect passive smokers too, such as our families.”

He said Muhammadiyah issued a directive in 2005 declaring smoking mubah , which means allowed but not recommended.

“We are confident that our followers will be able to obey the fatwa,” he said, adding that of Muhammadiyah’s estimated 30 million members, he was sure that smokers were among the minority.

In January 2009, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) issued a limited restriction on tobacco use. The fatwa banned Muslims from smoking in public places and prohibited children and pregnant women from taking up the habit.

The MUI’s fatwa prompted the Ministry of Finance to warn that its excise revenue from tobacco could fall below its 2010 targets. The ministry had hoped to rake in Rp 49.6 trillion ($5.41 billion) in excise duties this year, with Rp 48.24 trillion of that coming from cigarette sales.

There is, however, little evidence that the fatwa would have any effect on cigarette sales or levels of smoking.

But Tulus Abadi, chairman of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) and a leading antismoking campaigner, said Muhammadiyah’s call for a ban could have a major impact, particularly with the organization’s close connections to a number of schools and universities.

“I believe students at campuses, for instance, will listen to the fatwa,” he said. “But we need to see real action from Muhammadiyah in sanctioning those who disobey the ruling.”

Yunahar, however, said sanctions were not a priority at the moment. He said Muhammadiyah would first raise awareness about the ban before imposing penalties.

“We will spread the message at our universities, schools, hospitals — all must not smoke,” he said.

As a first step, Muhammadiyah has committed to ban smoking at their national congress in Yogyakarta in July.

Retrieved from: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/muhammadiyah-bans-smoking-calling-it-suicide/362944

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