Ahmad Badri Abdullah
The Gaza conflict has been a long-standing and deeply sensitive issue for Muslims worldwide. As the world watches the crisis unfold, the need for strong, vocal leadership to champion the Palestinian cause is more crucial than ever. In this context, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia has emerged as a prominent and unifying figure, using his voice and influence to galvanize support for the Palestinian people among the diverse population of Malaysia.
As a leader of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, Anwar Ibrahim faces the challenge of striking a balance between expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause and uniting his country’s diversity.
Anwar has continuously proved his commitment to advocating for the rights of Palestinians. His unwavering support for Palestine has made him a prominent voice in the Muslim world and beyond. He consistently asserts that the Palestine-Israel issue should be viewed through the lens of the ‘politics of dispossession’, a concept propounded by Edward W. Said, a Palestinian-American academic, highlighting Israel's institutionalized method of expropriating landed assets from their Palestinian owners.
In contrast to other ASEAN countries' leaders who have used broader language to urge an end to violence and concentrate on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Malaysia's Prime Minister has displayed a distinctively stronger tone in his official statements and measures. This is what Julia Lau and Francis E. Hutchinson of the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, have concluded.
The Prime Minister, in Parliament on October 16th, firmly rejected what he described as "pressure" from "Western governments" to condemn Hamas, highlighting that the organisation had been elected democratically by the people of Gaza and, therefore, has the right to lead the nation.
The following day, Anwar engaged with Hamas' political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, and announced Malaysia's commitment to providing humanitarian relief. Additionally, he pledged RM100 million in humanitarian aid.
With a strong show of solidarity, Anwar led a massive rally of 16,000 pro-Palestinian supporters in Kuala Lumpur on October 24, 2023, to condemn what he termed as Israel's "barbaric" acts in Gaza. He urged the international community to intervene immediately to end the violence in Gaza and establish a humanitarian corridor to aid the besieged territory.
Anwar's efforts in raising the Palestinian issue extend to the international stage. He has used his diplomatic clout to engage with other world leaders, international organizations, and regional powers. During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Saudi Arabia on October 18, Anwar expressed Malaysia's unwavering support for the Palestinian people and called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor and an immediate ceasefire with Hamas.
In his meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Prime minister during the summit, he underlined the importance of the Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia to stop the ongoing war between the Israeli army and Palestinian factions.
Anwar also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on October 25
and discussed the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the need for a ceasefire. He then met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and discussed the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow the channelling of food, water and medicines to Palestine.
Anwar faces not only external pressures in his public support for Palestine, which he explains has taken place three times, especially from the US but also internal challenges. One of these significant challenges stems from the issue of polarization among Malaysians.
In response to the criticisms that his approach towards the Palestinian cause is too vocal and disregards the non-intervention principle, Anwar stated in his concluding speech for the National Budget on Nov 30, that the Palestinian issue is not exclusive to Muslims but a matter of justice and human rights. According to Anwar, Russia, China, Ireland and Brazil have adopted the same human rights approach.
Anwar Ibrahim's leadership in the Gaza crisis extends beyond religious lines. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country with a predominantly Muslim population. His ability to bridge religious and ethnic divides will strengthen the country's collective support for the Palestinian people. Balancing foreign policy with domestic sensitivities is a delicate task, and the Prime Minister has diligently navigated this fine line to maintain unity within Malaysia.
Regardless of their religious and racial backgrounds, Malaysians should wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause, as it has transcended into a humanitarian crisis, with Israel's collective punishments and genocidal attacks on the people of Gaza.
As the world continues to grapple with the complexities of the Middle East conflict, Prime Minister Anwar's leadership exemplifies how a nation's leader can serve as a unifying force for a just and compassionate cause, transcending religious and ethnic divides for the betterment of all humanity.
Dr. Ahmad Badri bin Abdullah is the Deputy CEO of IAIS Malaysia
02 NOV 2023
The sighting of the Syawal moon has long been an important event in the Muslim calendar, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr celebrations. However, in Southeast Asia, the practice of moon sighting for determining the start of the new month can vary greatly between countries. These differences in moon-sighting can have significant impacts on the socio-economics of the region as well as in international relations.
Moreover, differences in moon-sighting can also affect the relationships between different Muslim communities within a single country. In some cases, different regions or ethnic groups within a country may follow different moon-sighting methods or have different criteria for determining the start of the new month. This can create tensions and divisions within the Muslim community, and may even result in the marginalization of certain groups.
When the holiday falls on a different date than it does in their home country, Muslim workers may encounter difficulties getting time off from work in nations where the Muslims are minorities like in Singapore, Philippines and Thailand. The socio-economic impacts of differences in Syawal moon-sighting in Southeast Asia can be far-reaching and affect various sectors of society.
Different implementations of moon-sighting criteria is one of the main causes for differences in determining Syawal in Southeast Asia. While these differences may have cultural and historical significance, they can also create practical and logistical challenges for individuals, businesses, and governments in the region. As such, there is a need for greater cooperation and standardization in implementation of moon-sighting methods and criteria, in order to promote greater harmony and understanding among Muslims in the region.
Efforts to standardize moon-sighting criteria in Southeast Asia have been ongoing for many years, driven by the desire to promote greater unity in the region. MABIMS(Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore) criteria are a set of guidelines for visibility of the young crescent moon for determining the beginning of Islamic months based on the imkan al-rukyah method.
Imkan al-ru'yah concept combines the methods of astronomical calculation and physical moon sighting. This concept is based on scientific data and is considered valid according to Islamic jurisprudence and astronomy as long as it is consistent with moon sighting data. The criteria need to be evaluated with the development of science and technology to ensure that the Hijrah calendar compilation conforms to aspects of science and religion.
The criteria were introduced in the Istanbul Meeting for Hijri Month Determination 1978. It indicates that to consider a young crescent moon that marks the start of a month, the moon’s altitude should not be more than 5 degrees and the sun-moon elongation should not be less than 8 degree at sunset.
The criteria was later being modified by the Ministers of religion of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (MABIMS) Meetings in 1992 which indicates that the moon’s altitude should not be more than 2 degree and the elongation of the moon-sun is not more than 3 degree at sunset or the age of the young crescent moon must not be less than 8 hours after conjunction.
Nonetheless, the imkan al-ru'yah criteria are solely employed for the months apart from Ramadan, Shawwal, and Dzulhijjah in Brunei. In contrast, the initial three months of the Islamic calendar are determined by utilizing the rukyah al-hilal method, which involves physically observing the appearance of the new young crescent moon. Malaysia started to adopt the criteria in 1995.
Experts in Shariah, astronomy, and Islamic authorities have been meeting in MABIMS countries since 2016 to discuss moon sightings and the Islamic calendar. In 2019, based on thorough analysis of moon sighting data within the countries, they agreed to use a new criterion based on analyzing moon sighting data within the country. This new imkan al-ru'yah criteria requires that the moon’s altitude to be at least 3 degrees and the sun-moon elongation to be at least 6.4 degrees at sunset on the 29th day of the Hijri month. Since 2021, MABIMS countries have been using this new criterion.
In Islam, there are two concepts related to moon sighting. Wihdah al-matali' means that the sighting of the young crescent moon in one place is valid for all places that share the same horizon, while ikhtilaf matali' means that the sighting in one place is not valid for places with different horizons. This has implications for determining Islamic months, such as Ramadan and Shawwal. Currently, there is a trend towards the unity emergence of the young crescent moon in regions under the authorities of the European Fiqh Council, North American Fiqh Council, and the Muslim Association of Canada. The aim of aligning the implementation of the new MABIMS’ criteria should be to actualize the unity emergence approach in the region.
Overall, the implications of differences in Syawal moon-sighting in Southeast Asia can be significant, and may require careful management by governments and religious authorities in the region. By prioritizing cooperation and understanding, and working towards a common understanding and criteria for determining the start of the new month, countries can help to promote greater harmony within Muslim communities and stability within the region.
Dr. Ahmad Badri bin Abdullah is the Deputy CEO of IAIS Malaysia
Dr. Raihana Abdul Wahab is a Senior Lecturer, Islamic Astronomy Programme, Department of Fiqh and Usul, Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's priority is to address the rising cost of living and the effects of the expected global economic slowdown.
In addition, the country's chasm between progressive and conservative groups must be addressed by him.
Anwar's leadership in global Muslim affairs in particular should not be taken for granted given his international recognition and close ties to world leaders.
Leaders from Muslim nations — such as Brunei, Indonesia, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Qatar — have expressed their high regard for Anwar.
Their correspondence and visits after Anwar was named prime minister make this clear.
This may suggest that Malaysia and other nations are forming a stronger alliance. The nation's new leadership may have an effect on the Muslim world.
Even though the majority of Muslim countries are plagued by authoritarian governments, corrupt ruling elite and weak civic movements, the election of a Muslim leader who is committed to democratic processes and principles is a significant advancement.
Anwar's biggest challenge will be to uphold moral commitment to manage Malaysia's relations with other countries while safeguarding the country's interests.
With the right approaches, the opposing forces might actually work in harmony.
How Anwar responds to the Uighur issue in China is one of those tasks.
Maintaining positive relations with China is essential throughout the economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic because it is Malaysia's largest trading partner and largest foreign investor.
The real challenge is in striking a balance in bilateral relationship with China while remaining tough about the plight of the Uighurs.
In another area, following the pandemic, the Middle East and North Africa region is undergoing economic recovery, particularly with rising oil and gas prices.
The region has witnessed a breakthrough in the normalisation of relations between Israel and several Arab countries.
This will have an impact on the existence of the Palestinian state and the fate of its citizens.
Malaysia should take a stand against this trend, especially now, with a prime minister who advocates for the Palestinian people's right to peace and dignity.
Meanwhile, Syrians are facing increasing suffering and hardships as a result of a decade of war.
Political turmoil in Iraq is escalating, with parties ready to use force once more.
Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country and the site of one of the world's worst man-made humanitarian disasters in decades, is witnessing the end of a United Nations-mediated truce, after warring parties rejected a proposal presented by a UN special envoy to extend and expand the agreement.
In this regard, Anwar, who has close ties with leaders in Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, could assist these regions obtain a peaceful resolution.
On the fate of the Rohingya, Anwar, as a Muslim leader, might have to address the issues the minority group is facing.
The Rohingya in Myanmar remain marginalised, without a legal identity and are considered stateless, while those who fled their country struggle as refugees due to their inability to find employment and provide for their children's education.
It is time for Malaysia to develop a new refugee policy, including taking the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees into account.
Another issue that Anwar may need to address is Islamophobia.
Due to insulting remarks made by certain countries, including India's ruling party officials, about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, there is increasing friction between India and Muslim nations.
Nations — including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia and the Maldives — have protested to the Modi administration since June on the issue.
Anwar might have a role to play in the reconciliation between these countries given his image as a globalist who has strong ties with prominent Muslim countries as well as the Indian government.
Aside from political and security concerns, discovering strategic leadership roles and influences to cater to the challenges faced by Muslim global societies is critical for Anwar to ensure Malaysia can face the global economic downturn and adverse effects of climate change through partnership, expertise and resource exchanges between Muslim countries.
The writer is acting deputy CEO and associate fellow, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia
Published in: The New Straits Times, Thursday 10 January 2023
PRIME MINISTER Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob joined other state leaders in calling for urgent climate change action during his speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, recently.
This is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/IPCC's new findings, which state that we can no longer rely on the 2050 target of net zero carbon emissions to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius because it will be too late for the earth to survive.
A more significant measure to keep global temperatures under control is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 43 per cent, and specifically 34 per cent methane gas emissions, by 2030.
In fact, Malaysia has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. In other words, timing is critical in preventing climate disasters.
According to 2019 data, Malaysia's GHG emissions increased by 3.44 per cent over the previous year. Waste management is a critical step in lowering methane emissions.
But despite Malaysia's experience with the negative effects of climate change, particularly extreme flooding, it appears that strategies and policies are not being adopted and implemented as quickly as they should be.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Sunday 02 October 2022
The environment is currently in a dire situation. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report published on Feb 28, this year, highlighted that humanity might witness further environmental catastrophes in the coming decades as the world is expected to hit the global warming tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In other words, the world is already in a state of planetary emergency.
In the backdrop of these developments, the fasting month once again invites Muslims to not only rejuvenate their spiritual commitment toward God in terms of fasting and praying, but also enjoins them to improve their interaction with others, including the environment.
Renowned Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his seminal work entitled Riayah al-Biah fi Shariah al-Islam (Preservation of the environment from the Shariah perspective), highlights the cardinal Islamic adage of "al-Din Muamalah" which roughly means "religion is (primarily concerned with) the treatment of others".
Although the phrase has not referred to a specific verse of the Quran or a saying of Prophet Muhammad, its spirit could be identified in many Islamic injunctions.
The hadith clearly conveys the message that merely fulfilling ritualistic obligations would not be sufficient if one is not duly observant of maintaining decent interaction with others.
Interestingly, al-Qaradawi also noted that the same applies to human interactions with nature and its elements.
Preservation of nature in all of its forms, including greening the earth by planting trees, nurturing and developing lands and prudent use of natural resources should be recognised as acts that lead a person closer to God.
Without due observance of these instructions, al-Qaradawi argues, the quality of their ritualistic deeds would remain questionable.
Reflecting on the purpose of these instructions, it should be noted with concern that during Ramadan, 10,000 tonnes of food is wasted on a daily basis.
It is estimated that around 15 to 25 per cent of all food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to the garbage bin.
This adds to the volume of food wasted every day, which comprises one-third of the overall amount of food produced daily.
Unfortunately, such a phenomenon takes place in spite of the stress on our food supply chains that has led to price hikes of food items such as chicken, vegetables and wheat flour.
While mountains of this food waste might rot away in landfills where they release methane gases and contribute to global warming, single-use plastic waste from food wrappers also exacerbate the environmental problem.
Internationally, some movements have started promoting "Green Iftar" campaigns.
Their primary aim is to educate Muslim communities in opting for sustainable and effectivebreaking-of-fast choices that are in line with Islamic ethics.
This includes using local or seasonal ingredients in food preparation in order to reduce carbon emission, judicious water usage, preparing simple meals with fewer animal products, avoiding unnecessary plastic bags or packaging by bringing one's own bag while buying meals for iftar, and making early arrangement to donate extra iftar food, especially to those in need.
Local governments and religious authorities in Malaysia may need to consider the possibility of adopting some of these instructions into policy guidelines for mosques, hotels and institutions that organise iftar throughout Ramadan.
It is critical to ensure that the spiritual month of Ramadan does not exacerbate the dire environmental crisis the world is currently facing.
The writer is acting deputy CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Monday 18 April 2022
SINCE 2021, we have been witnessing sharp increases in the prices of vegetables, some almost 100 per cent. The same is happening to poultry products like chicken and eggs.
The continued price hikes will have ripple effects on other items and industries. Food manufacturers and restaurants will pass the burden to the end of the supply chain — the consumers.
Some experts and institutions have urged the authorities to enforce a strict price ceiling on essential products and implement price control throughout the year, but these solutions would be effective only in the short run.
Other experts have argued that a strict price ceiling may have negative effects, such as discouraging farmers from increasing production, creating artificial shortages and diverting supply to those who are able and willing to pay above ceiling prices.
While many factors contributed to the food price hike, it is arguably a symptom of the food crisis that has been predicted to strike worldwide due to climate change. As farmers now can't predict dry or rainy seasons due to climate disruption, crops are more exposed to diseases and ruin.
Fixing the food supply chain is critical for the survival of a country like ours. More importantly, we need to reimagine our food system to build resilient food resources for the nation. Food security is achieved by balancing boosting domestic production and developing smart partnerships with other producer countries.
In fixing our broken food system, we crucially need new approaches. In the long run, it is important to develop climate-resilient agricultural strategies and practices. These include an emphasis on soil health, diversified production systems, opting for ecological design and selling to high-value direct markets.
Diversified production that can preserve soil health can mitigate climate risk throughout the growing season as it can reduce losses from weather catastrophes and phenomena. Ecological farming that allows adaptation to the local landscape and climate may offer some buffer from weather-related disturbances. Finally, selling to high-value direct markets can increase profitability while creating social capital.
It is also crucial to shorten the food supply chain in the community. Other than eliminating middlemen to allow farmers to directly market products to consumers and reduce prices, shortening the food supply chain can also be done by developing a culture of community farming.
To transform our food system, we need to shift from conventional agriculture to agroecological systems that promote sustainable consumption while addressing land and resource degradation.
Policy-level initiatives are also crucial. As climate disruption poses risks to our food system, the authorities should consider enhancing policies on crop insurance (or takaful for Muslims) for food farmers in particular.
Such financial products can stabilise farmers' income, while offering protection against yield and price risks.
In the context of climate change, the authorities, producers and consumers need to be cognisant of its impact on food systems and take measures to adapt to and mitigate them. A resilient food system is undoubtedly a lifeline for the current and future generations.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Thursday 27 Jan 2022
WHILE we are still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the impacts of planetary catastrophes have begun to rear its ugly head.
Spain, Greece and China are suffering from heat waves, high temperatures, extreme flooding and deadly wildfires.
In an interview in the Veritasium channel, when asked what were among the next problems that will strike humanity post- pandemic, Bill Gates responded that it will be climate change as well as bioterrorism.
This has been made more evident by the alarming code red warning by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, which clearly estimates the high chance that the world might cross the global warming level of 1.5°C increase in the next decade.
Climate-related risks of health and livelihood problems, food source scarcity, shortage of clean water supply, security and economic threats are predicted to intensify if global warming increases by 2°C.
The IPCC has proposed that the world needs to achieve zero carbon emission by 2050, and Malaysia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity of gross domestic product by up to 45 per cent by 2030.
Government intervention in realising green targets, proper execution of policies and active monitoring of green enterprise performances are critical.
More importantly, the country needs to rethink its long-standing approach of natural resources-led development approach over environmental preservation, and move towards ecologically sustainable growth.
A two-pronged strategy needs to be considered. First, accelerate existing efforts and infrastructures that are in place. Second, develop new paradigms and practice-oriented culture of a circular economy.
Therefore, the ministries that manage the environment, water, energy, natural resources, agriculture, plantations and commodities have strategic roles to play to limit carbon emissions.
Moreover, the government and the public need to ensure effective implementation of long-term planning, such as the Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030 and Malaysia's Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030. In 2015, the government made it mandatory for households to separate solid waste at the source, implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672).
However, the lack of a consistent solid waste management policy and precedent has led to an estimated waste recovery rate of only less than five per cent. Therefore, devising a clear policy or law pertaining to waste management especially in major cities is indispensable.
Cities like San Francisco and Seoul should become our models. Through effective policies and laws, they managed to divert 80 per cent of their local daily wastes from landfills through recycling and turning their food wastes into compost for plantations.
In addition to circular economic policies and mechanisms in its manufacturing and waste management activities, Malaysian authorities also need to aggressively adopt policies that improve the lifestyle of its population.
This primarily involves redesigning business models whereby all products manufactured are easily recyclable, repurposed or reused, and utilises sustainable sources of raw materials.
This may ensure products continue to circulate as long as they can, and minimise the use of natural resources in creating new ones.
It is more timely than ever for the establishment of a Special Parliamentarian Committee on Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Technology as announced by the Parliament speaker in 2019.
This committee needs to become a coordinator for multidimensional strategies of curbing the impact of climate change.
No time should be wasted to come up with a concerted effort across sectors and agencies if we are serious about preserving the planet for the next generation.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 29 September 2021
As the dawn of Ramadan settled its dust, Muslims should introspect whether they have attained the upmost objective of fasting as stressed in the Holy Quran, which is piety or taqwa. Also important is to question how piety could influence or cater for our social affairs.
A cursory survey of the concept throughout the Quran evinces that piety is significant in managing societies and resolving their ailments. Such social dimension of piety is apparent in a Quranic verse: "Had the people of those societies been faithful and mindful of Allah" (al-A'raf 7:96).
Piety promotes purposefulness. It is suggested that every action, be it individual or collective, needs to serve the divine purpose of obeying God's commands and abstaining from sinful acts. Fasting, for instance, aims to inculcate piety in the hearts of the believers.
Throughout the Quran, piety positively correlates with other core Islamic concepts such as faith, truthfulness and fear of God's disgrace. They are connected in a cumulative way in the sense that the increase of piety in an individual would uplift those qualities as well. On the other hand, lack of piety corresponds accordingly with sinful acts, transgression and practising usury.
Adopting the concept of interrelatedness as an aspect of piety, a person needs to be aware that their commissions and omissions would not only have positive and negative impacts on others, but more importantly, on their own individuality and spirituality.
There are multiple dimensions of piety highlighted in the Quran and the Prophetic traditions, including social relation and conciliation, daily conversation, as well as economic transaction. Such a multidimensional aspect of piety requires Muslims to maintain a correct equilibrium in behavioural values in their lives.
This would mean keeping the seemingly contradictory forces in life in a harmonious state, between spiritual enhancement and material fulfilment, moral sanctity and scientific advancement, as well as economic growth and environmental preservation.
As the Quran stresses, human beings are created as the best of forms (ahsani taqwim) as they are able to maintain such kind of balance (qawwam) in their lives. There are several positives for those committed to a pious life.
Among others are easiness of life affairs, being bestowed with beneficial knowledges and showered with blessings from heaven and earth. A pious person and society, in other words, unfailingly pay heed to the consequences of their actions.
Fulfilling purposefulness, interrelatedness, multi-dimensionality and emphasising consequences would suffice to categorise piety as a systemic concept. Therefore, the systemic characteristic of piety is vital to extend its function from an individual quality to an approach of catering to social affairs.
In the backdrop of pandemic and climate crisis, two major threats to human survival on the planet, realising not only individual, but also social piety through the systemic framework is indispensable.
Choosing sustainable and green lifestyles of properly sorting household wastes to be recycled, for instance, and following strict standard operating procedures during a pandemic would necessitate high individual and collective commitment.
To pursue such a commitment, society members individually and collectively should be mindful of the purpose of their actions in facing climatic and pandemic crises, to preserve life and livelihood, but more importantly, to fulfil God's guidance and command.
As balance is one of the aspects of piety, particularly in facing the multi-dimensionality of climate and pandemic catastrophes, it is thus crucial for individuals and the government to always put trust and priority in a win-win approach.
In sum, to ensure the effective control and sustainability of pandemic and climate crises combating measures and systemic social piety should be seriously considered as the backbone of new pandemic norms, sustainable practices, and relevant policies.
Without a spiritual bend and the right framework, the rules and regulations are just waiting to be breached.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 21 May 2021
Pada 17 Februari lalu, Menteri Sains, Teknologi dan Inovasi, Khairy Jamaluddin, menguar-uarkan bahawa pengeluar vaksin asing menyatakan minat untuk melabur di Malaysia.
Beliau menyatakan pihak terbabit berhasrat membina kilang pembuatan bagi memenuhi permintaan pasaran serantau khususnya berkaitan produk vaksin halal.
Khairy turut memaklumkan banyak pengeluar vaksin menyatakan hasrat meletakkan Malaysia sebagai hab penghasilan vaksin bagi rantau Asia Tenggara dan negara Islam di seluruh dunia.
Puncanya, kelebihan sistem pensijilan halal kita yang sistematik dan diiktiraf antarabangsa.
Perbincangan untuk Menteri itu juga menyatakan pihaknya sudah membincangkan hal berkenaan dengan beberapa pihak di Russia dan India, dengan pengeluar vaksin di luar negara menyatakan minat untuk melabur di Malaysia dalam sektor terbabit.
Menyoroti perkembangan sama, pada 7 Oktober 2020, Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif (CEO) Halal Development Corporation (HDC), Hairol Ariffein Sahari, menunjukkan piawaian bagi mengesahkan vaksin halal termasuk untuk COVID-19, akan tersedia pada awal 2021.
Turut dilaporkan HDC sudah menjalin kerjasama dengan Jabatan Standard Malaysia (DSM) dan Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) untuk mengembangkan piawaian terbabit.
Pada masa sama, langkah penyelidikan dan pembangunan (R&D) turut digerakkan dengan kerjasama beberapa syarikat yang menghasilkan vaksin terbabit.
Agenda menjayakan projek vaksin halal di Malaysia bukan baharu, sebaliknya projek itu mula diuar-uarkan kepada awam sejak 2014 lagi.
Ketika itu, Datuk Seri Mustafa Mohamad yang juga Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri, mengumumkan pada 2017 Malaysia akan menjadi pengeluar utama vaksin halal untuk meningitis, hepatitis dan meningokokus dengan pelaburan bakal disalurkan kerajaan Arab Saudi bernilai AS$100 juta.
Pada Disember 2017 juga, Pharmaniaga, sebuah syarikat farmaseutikal berpusat di Malaysia, mengumumkan pihaknya bekerjasama dengan pengilang vaksin berpusat di Delhi untuk menghasilkan vaksin halal pada 2022.
Masyarakat secara amnya berhak mendapat maklumat lengkap mengenai hal ini. Paling penting, diperjelaskan apa sebenarnya maksud vaksin halal.
Dalam laporan HDC berjudul Global Market Potential for Halal Vaccines vaksin halal dinyatakan sebagai tidak mengandungi bahagian atau produk haiwan yang tidak halal atau tidak disembelih mengikut kehendak syariah.
Oleh itu, ada mencadangkan pengeluaran vaksin halal dapat menggabungkan medium tumbuhan dan enzim berasaskan tumbuhan.
Di seluruh aliran pengeluaran juga, fasiliti pembuatan, pembungkusan, penyimpanan dan mekanisme pengangkutan, mestilah digunakan secara eksklusif untuk produk biologik halal.
Pada masa sama, langkah mencukupi untuk mencegah pencemaran vaksin sepanjang peringkat pengeluarannya mestilah dipatuhi pengilang.
Dalam kertas dasar isu bertajuk Challenges Facing the Halal Vaccine: Issues & Proposed Solutions terbitan Institut Kajian Tinggi Islam (IAIS) Malaysia, satu daripada cabaran utama mewujudkan industri vaksin halal di negara ini ialah proses penghasilan produk terbabit yang rumit dan memakan masa panjang.
Secara amnya, fasa pembangunan klinikal sesebuah vaksin memakan masa antara sembilan hingga 10 tahun dan memerlukan kos sangat tinggi.
Namun, melihatkan perkembangan semasa penghasilan vaksin COVID-19 di mana ia mampu dihasilkan dalam kerangka masa lebih pendek melalui teknologi baharu seperti mRNA serta memanfaatkan kecerdasan buatan (AI) dan data raya, cabaran itu dijangka dapat diatasi dengan berkesan.
Dalam sesi wawancara IAIS Malaysia bertajuk COVID-19 Vaccine: Halal Status and Ethical Issues in Distribution pada 22 Disember 2020, Prof Zhari Ismail, seorang pakar farmaseutikal Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) menyatakan pihak universiti terbabit pernah mengadakan lawatan ke Cuba dan mendapat taklimat mengenai kaedah penghasilan vaksin menggunakan elemen tumbuh-tumbuhan.
Menurut beliau, ia wajar diberi perhatian jika Malaysia benar-benar mahu menjayakan projek vaksin halal ini.
Terkini, Menteri Sains, Teknologi dan Inovasi berkata, beliau sudah pun meluluskan peruntukan kepada Universiti Malaya (UM) dan Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) untuk melaksanakan kajian bagi menghasilkan vaksin untuk coronavirus.
Diharapkan hasrat Malaysia kali ini untuk menjadi pengeluar utama vaksin halal di rantau Asia Tenggara dan dunia Islam, bakal menjadi kenyataan dan sebarang cabaran serta masalah yang dihadapi, dapat diatasi dengan baik.
Penulis adalah Felo Institut Kajian Tinggi Islam Antarabangsa (IAIS) Malaysia
OTHER than public health concerns about safety, efficacy and distribution mechanisms, vaccination also instigates complex socio-religious controversies. This not only involves different perspectives regarding the legal status of the biological products used in vaccines, but, more importantly, how different races and religious groups view each other when making demands about the specifications of such products.
While some Muslims feel that it is their right to demand halal vaccines, for others, non-Muslims among them, such demand is unnecessary as the main focus of vaccination is safety and efficacy. Issues regarding the halal status of newly developed Covid-19 vaccines arose after an announcement by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who said such vaccines would be available in the first quarter of next year.
Netizens' concerns regarding the halal status of these vaccines have received myriad responses from the authorities, including Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman, who said the halal status of the vaccine is important to ensure peace of mind among Muslims.
In consequence, on Oct 7, Halal Development Corporation (HDC) chief executive officer Hairol Ariffein Sahari, said standards to certify halal vaccines, including for Covid-19, will be available by early next year. It was reported that HDC was working closely with the Malaysian Standards Department and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department to develop the standards, while initiating research and development measures with several companies produce these vaccines.
A Malaysian halal vaccine project is not new. It has been on the radar since 2014, when then international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed announced that by 2017, Malaysia would be the main producer of halal vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis and meningococcal disease. In December 2017, Pharmaniaga, a Malaysian-based pharma-ceutical company, engaged in a collaboration with a Delhi-based vaccine manufacturer to start producing halal vaccines by 2022.
Society has the right to be well-informed about what constitutes a halal vaccine. In a HDC report, titled Global Market Potential for Halal Vaccines, a halal vaccine was described as something that does not contain any part or product of an animal that is either non-halal or not slaughtered according to syariah requirements.
Therefore, some have proposed that halal vaccine production may incorporate plant-based mediums, as well as plant-based enzymes. Over the entire production line, however, manufacturing facilities, packaging, storage, as well as transportation mechanisms must be exclusively used for halal biological products. Moreover, sufficient measures to prevent vaccine contamination along its production stages must be duly observed by manufacturers.
An issue that might arise with the advent of new halal vaccines is the legal status of existing vaccines not yet certified halal. Generally, by referring to the arguments presented in Islamic legal verdicts (fatwa), locally and globally, it is clear that vaccines that may not be certified as halal will still be permissible (mubahḥ) on the basis of dire necessity (ḍdarurah).
This is because vaccines, like any other medicine, are permissible according to Islam, as long as they do not contain any prohibited elements specified in the Quran or any other form of filthy (najasah) ingredient. Therefore, in the event that no alternative is available, to prevent fatal communicable diseases, existing vaccines are acceptable for Muslims.
From the manufacturing and distribution perspectives, achieving herd immunity in society requires more than one type of vaccine. John Shiver, the senior vice-president of Global Vaccine Research and Development at Sanofi, a leading pharmaceutical company, argues that, in resolving the Covid-19 pandemic, no single company or product will be able to provide the overall solution.
Therefore, Covid-19 halal vaccines should be seen as part and parcel of a global endeavour. The effectiveness of the vaccines is contingent on their distribution among the right people at the right time; coverage is key to developing herd immunity. Concerted efforts across religious, social, geographical, and politico-economic divides are important if we are to return to normality.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Tuesday 01 December 2020