Bad Idea of the Day: Halal Pharmaceuticals

One of the more amusing aspects of 'You are only criticizing Islam because you are RACIST AGAINST MIDDLE-EASTERNERS!!!!' is the fact that most Muslims do not live in the Middle-East.

They live in Asia.

Case in point: Indonesia, where about >87% of the population is Muslim.  12.7% of all Muslims live in Indonesia (Iraq? 1.2%).

So naturally, like Christians in the US try to pass legislation to make Christianity The Law (for everyone, whether you are Christian or not), Muslims in Indonesia try to pass legislation to make Islam The Law (for everyone, whether you are Muslim or not).

And, likewise, like anti-GMOers in the US try to pass legislation to indulge their personal disgust at unholy foods, Muslims in Indonesia try to pass legislation to indulge their personal disgust at unholy foods-- In this case, Halal foods.  Instead of making everyone personally responsible for determining whether their food meets their superstitious requirements, legislators in Indonesia are trying to pass a bill that would require all foods produced in Indonesia be Halal.  Its just easier, for them.

Okay, whatever.  Twin cows, one killed in a magic way, one killed in a non-magic way, you can only eat the magic cow.  Whatever.

But Indonesian legislators have taken things a step too far-- They dont just want to legislate food-- they want to require that all pharmaceuticals produced in Indonesia are Halal.  Drugs.  Vaccines. Even make-up!  Everything.

Indonesia’s vaccine industry has requested to be exempt from a controversial halal bill that would require the raw ingredients of food, medicine and cosmetics products to meet halal requirements.


Indonesian Muslims have championed the bill, saying that few food products, and even less cosmetics are certified halal by the MUI. According to MUI estimates, some 15 percent of all products sold in Indonesia have halal certifications.

While there might be lots of Muslims around, the scientific community is not focused on making any particular religion comfortable.  We dont make our cell lines, media supplements, etc 'Halal friendly'.  I mean, are CHO cells 'Halal'?  Cos-1 cells?  Wat?  Are Sigma and Invitrogen making sure their FBS is Halal?  Abcam killing the animals they use to generate monoclonoal antibodies (mice and donkeys and goats etc), making sure they follow Halal guidelines?

I dont think so.

So where does that leave Indonesia?  They manufacture vaccines and drugs in-house for their people, and manufacture these pharmaceuticals for export as well.  This legislation also does not prohibit the IMPORT of non-Halal drugs/vaccines.  So it is completely pointless.  Muslims in the country have no idea whether what they are taking is Halal, pharm manufacturers cannot operate in Indonesia (so cannot bring money/jobs into the countrys economy), pharm manufacturers cannot generate products for their own people cheaper, they have to import the same damn drugs in and buy them from someone else.  WTF!

“We will die if this regulation comes into force,” Iskandar said on the sidelines of the 13th Meeting of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN) in Kuta, Bali, on Friday. “This will destroy the pharmaceutical industry.”

Iskandar called the bill counterproductive, explaining that the government cannot both tackle the nation’s many health concerns and pass a sweeping halal-only law.

Happily, nothing puts religion on the back-burner faster than cash:

The nation’s vaccine industry faces up to Rp 1.5 trillion ($156 million) in losses if the bill is passed into law, said Iskandar, president director of the state-owned vaccine producer Bio Farma.


Bio Farma currently earns 70 percent of its income from exporting vaccines to 117 countries, he said. The vaccine maker predicted a 15 percent boost in earnings this year.

That is *one* company.  When you take into account all the pharm companies operating in Indonesia, I seriously doubt Indonesias lawmakers are going to let that kind of cash walk out the door.

Still-- moves like this, even just done for show, piss me off.

If you dont want to accept blood transfusions because of your religion, fine.

If you dont want to accept a pig valve for your failing heart because of your religion, fine.

If you dont want to accept therapies derived from embryonic stem cells because of your religion, fine.

If you dont want to eat GMO cheese and would rather have chunks of baby cow guts in your overpriced organic cheddar, fine.

If you dont want to ingest medication that was not produced in a Halal manner, fine.

The problem is when you start saying 'NO ONE CAN HAVE  ________, because my personal choice of beliefs say I CANT HAVE ______.'

More like this

I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that for something to be halal it must meet the following conditions:

1. It cannot contain ethanol.
2. It cannot contain pork.
3. If it contains meat from animals other than pigs, the animal must have been slaughtered in a specific way. (I'm not sure whether fish are considered animals for purposes of this rule--I know that Catholics consider fish to not be meat.)

A handful of OTC remedies, such as Nyquil, violate item 1, but most do not. I fail to see how items 2 and 3 would be relevant for the overwhelming majority of medications (there might be a few obscure cases where it is relevant, but I can't name any examples offhand). So it's not clear why somebody who cares whether something is halal or not would have reason to worry about the status of most medicines.

IOW, even granting the assumptions of the people backing this law, it's a silly law.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Nov 2012 #permalink

Just about every living organism produce some ethanol either directly or through commensal bacteria.
For this reason alone, we might declare human beings INHERENTLY HARAM.!!!! The horror1 The horror!

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 12 Nov 2012 #permalink

What's the problem to know if you eat GMOs or not ? Should we also remove all information on our food because SCIENCE!!!!! ?

I don't know if GMOs are unhealthy or not (and some studies seem to prove that they are), but the harm caused by GMOs is not only on health, and I don't want to buy them. It's in the worse case, my and only my, problem.

(note : I'm talking about open-field-monsatoesques GMOs, not everything)

By RadTransf (not verified) on 16 Nov 2012 #permalink

I fail to see how items 2 and 3 would be relevant for the overwhelming majority of medications (there might be a few obscure cases where it is relevant, but I can’t name any examples offhand).

Porcine insulin was of course quite a big deal. I believe the approach in Islam is similar to that in Judaism, which is that there is an overriding duty to guard life. Gelatin is also a point of inquiry, etc.

I'm guessing that any requirement for products to have a magical certificate is a way of keeping a constituency on side, since it creates an income stream for the clerics who certify the magic.
A case of pork-barrel politics as one might say.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Nov 2012 #permalink

Whether pork 'ingredients' are used in pharmaceutical production or not, the end product is always heavily purified and quality controlled. Could they consider that to be haram at all?

Besides, how would you determine whether a product is halal? It's not something you can measure.