03/10/2010, 00.00
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Indonesian Islamic organization issues a fatwa against smoking

by Mathias Hariyadi
Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in the country for followers, declares that smoking is "haram" morally wrong. It leads to unhealthy lifestyles, weakens and pushes frustrated people to suicide. Tobacco industry, a major economic resource at risk.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Muhammadiyah has launched a fatwa 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.

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.  

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.
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