Indonesia - second largest Muslim organization launched a fatwa against smoking..

Philip Morris Int'l Tops On Asian Smokers

March 19, 2010 - Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in Indonesia has launched a fatwa (a ruling) against smoking, saying that smoking is haram, or "morally wrong". A tough stance from the moderate Muslim organization, that counts about 40 million members and in Indonesia - the most populous Muslim country in the world - is second only to Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, with 60 million followers). The religious edict, moreover, goes to hit the tobacco industry, one of the most important economic activities in the country in turnover and as a source of employment. Indonesia's cigarette industry supports around four million workers and farmers combined.

Muhammadiyah has been criticised for accepting money from the New York-based anti-smoking Bloomberg Initiative - the implication being that foreign money influenced the fatwa.

Back in January 2009 Indonesia's top Islamic body (Ulemas Council - MUI) issued a fatwa (a ruling) placing more limited restrictions on tobacco use. "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 MUI said. (Indonesia - tobacco farmers reject Islamic council's edict..; Indonesia - Ulema Council - debate results is split on smoking..)

The two organizations maintain, usually, a moderate position in relation to controversial issues such as jihad, Islamic terrorism, morals, code of ethics and clothing. Precisely for this reason Indonesian public opinion is "surprised" by the announcement of the Muhammadiyah. The central committee and executive arms of the Muslim movement has in fact declared "morally illicit" (haram), the vice of smoking.

The ban on cigarettes was written on paper in a "fatwa" identified by the initials 6/SMOTT/III/2010, which also contains the reasons why smoking is wrong. Above all the will to propose models of healthy lifestyles and to help preserve the environment. Together with the health and ecological aspects, the edict is motivated by the desire to strengthen the souls "weakened" by wrong behaviours and lifestyles.

Professor Yunahar Ilyas, a leading member of the Muhammadiyah, confirms that smoking is a "bad habit" that leads people to other worse "situations", including physical weakness, and pushes the frustrated to suicide.

Ahmad Zaenuddin, Head of Muhammadiyah in Jakarta said: “We issued the fatwa because we believed those tobacco advertisements were targeting children and teenagers. This could ruin the country’s future generations. The children will follow the lifestyle of their favorite public figures and TV stars. This is one of the dangers of tobacco advertising, because they use actors who can capture the young people’s attention.”

Tulus Abadi, chairman of the Indonesian Consumers’ Foundation (YLKI) and chief advocate at the National Commission for Tobacco Control said: “Around 60 percent of children in Indonesia are exposed to cigarettes.” Cigarettes are readily available in Indonesia, retailing at less than $1 a pack, which is among the cheapest in the region.

The position of the second largest Muslim organization in the country strikes at the heart of the tobacco industry, a major economic resources of Indonesia. The magnates of smoking, in fact, are among the main tax contributors. The sector also provides employment to many people, the majority originating from poor areas and agricultural land. Even sporting events and music will suffer a severe blow: cigarettes, in fact, are among the principal sponsors. A collapse of business in the tobacco sector - caused by the fatwa - would limit their resources to invest in entertainment and in sports.

The impact of smoking on Indonesian health is extreme. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over sixty percent of the country's male citizens smoke daily.
And around four hundred thousand Indonesians die, every year, from smoking-related diseases.

Letter: Smoking kills a nation, Jakarta Post.

Indonesia is one of 4 countries in the whole wide world that have not ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which entered into force in February 2005. Muhammadiyah wants the Indonesia Government to ratify this soon.

References: Indonesian Islamic organization issues a fatwa against smoking by Mathias Hariyadi,, 3/10/2010; Indonesia's fatwa against smoking, Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Radio Australia, 3/17/2010; Indonesia – Controvesy Over Smoking Fatwa,, March 2010.

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