Indonesian Ulema Council issues edict forbidding Muslims from burning land

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 16;

JAKARTA: The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa or religious edict that forbids Muslims from burning their land.

The Council described the fatwa as a moral movement aiming at changing behaviour.

“The act of burning forests and land, which can cause damage, environmental pollution, economic losses, affect health, and other negative impacts is haram (forbidden),” said Professor Huzaemah Yanggo, chairperson for fatwa from the Indonesian Ulema Council, at a media conference on Tuesday (Sep 13).

The Council is confident that the new religious ruling can help change behaviour on illegal land burning.

It has instructed clerics and religious teachers to spread the message that the traditional practice of clearing land by farmers is against the teachings of Islam.

A booklet explaining the fatwa will also be distributed to the community.

The Council received a request from the Environment and Forestry Ministry to look into issuing a religious ruling on forest fires in January this year.

This was after massive forest fires in Indonesia in 2015, one of the worst periods on record.

Between March and July this year, the Indonesian Ulema Council conducted research and assessment before finally releasing the religious ruling on Tuesday.

The Council took reference from the Koran, and consulted various stakeholders before coming up with the fatwa.

“We understand that material punishment is not enough, what more with formal punishment. What is more important is moral (pressure),” said Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister.

The Council also plans to get the support of the international community on the fatwa.

- CNA/nc

Indonesian Islamic council issues fatwa on forest fires
Reuters 14 Sep 16;

Indonesia's highest Islamic council has issued a fatwa on burning land and forests, a government official said on Wednesday, in an effort to halt the toxic smog that blankets the region each year.

The fatwa is not legally binding but is aimed at discouraging plantation companies and farmers from clearing land using slash-and-burn methods in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

"There was a meeting between the environment minister and the Indonesian Clerics' Council, which issued fatwa no 30/2016 about forest and land burning law," said ministry spokesman Novrizal Tahar.

"The point is that an act (of burning) that causes environmental damage, according to (the council) decision, is illegitimate."

The council was not immediately available for comment and it was unclear why it had waited so long to make the ruling.

Every year, Indonesia faces criticism from its neighbors Singapore and Malaysia over the smog, euphemistically known as "haze", and its failure to stop the fires from being lit.

Last year's fires were among the worst in the region's history, with billions of dollars worth of environmental damage, weeks of flight and school disruptions and thousands suffering from respiratory disease.

(Reporting by Berndatte Christina Munthe; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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