TOBACCONIST OPPOSED TO MOSLEM SCHOLARS’ BAN ON SMOKING

        Jakarta, Jan 27 (ANTARA) – Indonesian tobacco farmers are opposed to an edict issued by the Council of Indonesias Ulema (MUI) forbidding Muslims in Indonesia to smoke although the country earns tens of trillions of rupiah of its revenues from cigarette taxes.     “The edict will affect the income of tobacco growers and  indirectly impact on people who want to smoke,” said Abdurrahman, chairman of the Tobacco Farmers Association in Jember which has  6,000 hectares of tobacco plantations in East Java.


     He expressed regret about the MUI edict which banned children, expecting mothers and people in public places from smoking, saying tobacco growers would not obey it and continue to plant tobacco to support their families.
     Abdurrahman said he was confident the MUI ruling would not change the habit of smokers and not apply to them in Jember because the region had many tobacco growers.  “Plantations of kasturi tobacco alone cover 6,000 hectares,” he said.
     The secretary of Jember’s Tobacco Commission (KUTJ), Abdus Setiawan, said  farmers were not bothered by  the issuance of the edict. “Tobacco demand over the past five years has remained stable and it does not seem it will be affected by the edict,” he said.
     He said tobacco production in Jember was increasing almost every year. In 2007, production stood at 14,763.18 tons and it increased to 17,032.18 tons in 2008.
     The problem of smoking is not that simple, not just a matter of ‘halal’ (allowed) or ‘haram’ (forbidden), but also of health and most importantly of its commercial aspects which involve the welfare of a large segment of the public.
     On a national scale, cigarettes contribute tens of trillions of rupiah to the state in the form of taxes.
     Indonesia which has a population of about 228 million is a potential market for cigarette industries. Reducing the number of cigarette consumers would threaten tobacco/cigarette producers and millions of people whose livelihood depends 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 was planned to increase to 260 billion pieces.
     The increase in cigarette production also raised state income from cigarette taxes which in 2006 stood at Rp37 trillion and in 2007 increased to Rp42 trillion. The government also has set itself an income target of Rp46.5 trillion from cigarette excise tapes in 2008.
     The contribution of tobacco or cigarettes to the people’s welfare is so great that many people are opposed to the MUI edict which they thought would affect their livelihood.
     “We have to remember that many people depend on cigarettes like those who live in Java’s districts of Kudus, Temanggung, Kenda and other districts in Indonesia,” Chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) for Central Java branch, Abdul Kadir Karding said here on Tuesday.
     He said that an MUI edict should be issued based on the interest of the public at large, not merely on the interest of certain groups of people. It should think of the fact that if implemented the edict would affect the people’s livelihood which so far relied on cigarette production. But because cigarettes involve people’s incomes, it would be difficult for them to implement the religious ruling by MUI.
     “I am convinced the people will not heed the MUI edict and thus it would corrupt the credibility and existence of the Muslim scholars council,” Abdul Kadir Karding said.
     Thus, the MUI decision to issue an edict which bans Muslims from smoking is a threat to its credibility and existence, he said. After all, the status of smoking in the Islamic law is already clear, namely Makruh (objectionable) so that there was no need to question it, let alone decide it as ‘haram'(forbidden).
     Meanwhile, Ridha Adjam, director of Makuwaje Consortium (non-governmental organization) of North Maluku province said he was opposed to the ruling because its legal basis was not clear.
     He said that in the Holy Book (Al Quran) and in the Prophet tradition, there was no single verse or point which clearly stated that smoking was forbidden. The reason that smoking was harmful to health was not strong to confirm that smoking was haram.
     “I personally agree that children and pregnant women should not smoke for health reason but I am opposed to it if they are banned based on the MUI edict because its legal basis is not strong,” he added.
     The Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) issued an edict in a meeting in Padangpanjang, West Sumatra, on Sunday, banning children, pregnant women, MUI members and for those in public places from smoking.
     “MUI has issued an edict which states that smoking is forbidden for children, pregnant women, MUI members and for those in public places,” Amin Suma, chairman of the Edict Commission of the MUI said Sunday.
     He said that the MUI meeting agreed to two rulings, namely one that bans smoking for children, pregnant women, those in public places and MUI members and the other one that states that smoking was between ‘haram’ and ‘makhruh.’
     According to Suma, the adoption of the edict was based on the emergence of differences of opinions on whether smoking for Muslims was allowed or forbidden.
     Nurhayati Hakim, an advisor to MUI for West Sumatra, said the MUI decision on smoking was enough to serve as guidance for Muslims with regard to smoking. “At least, the MUI edict will provide restrictions so that the public would not be free to smoke at will,” she said.
     Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Commission for Children Protection (KPA), Seto Mulyadi, said the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI)’s edict which banned smoking was aimed at protecting children in their growth process from smoke exposures.
     “Basically the idea is to protect children first. The fact that adult people are also banned from smoking is just another idea which developed further,” Seto Mulyadi, popularly called ‘Kak Seto’ said on Monday.
     “For sure, we are fighting for the interest of children so that they would grow, develop and live a healthy life free from the exposures of smokes which contain addictive substances such as nicotine,” the KPA chairman said. (T.A014/A/HAJM/A/E002)  27-01-2009 20:08:45

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