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Indonesian Ulema Council: Buying Pro-Israeli Products is Haram

Unilever is on a boycott list spread across various social media platforms, including in Indonesia.

Rep: Fuji EP, Dian Fath Risalah
Republika/Fuji E Permana Head of the MUI's Fatwa Committee, KH Asrorun Niam Sholeh.

JAKARTA -- The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued MUI Fatwa No. 83 of 2023 on the Law of Support to the Palestinian Struggle requiring support for the land of the prophets. Under the fatwa, supporting the Palestinian independence struggle is mandatory, while supporting Israel is illegal. The MUI also asserted that Muslims are prohibited from buying products from manufacturers who are manifestly affiliated and support Israeli aggression against Palestine.

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Head of the MUI's Fatwa Committee, KH Asrorun Niam Sholeh affirmed that the fatwa is a form of commitment of support to the Palestinian struggle for independence and resistance to Israeli aggression, also as a humanitarian efforts. "Supporting parties known to support Israeli aggression, both direct and indirect, such as by buying products from manufacturers who clearly support Israeli aggression is haram (religiously prohibited),” Niam said while delivering the results of the MUI fatwa in Jakarta on Friday (10/11/2023).

He urged Muslims to avoid as much as possible dealing with or using Israeli and Israeli-affiliated products and those that support colonization. “Support for Palestinian independence is currently mandatory. So we must not support those who are fighting the Palestinians, including the use of products whose results are in real support of the killing of Palestinians,” he said.

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Kiai Niam said that support for Palestinians includes distributing zakat, infak, and alms for the sake of the struggle of the Palestinian people. He explained that basically zakat funds should be distributed to mustahik who are around muzaki. In the event of an emergency or urgent need, zakat funds can be distributed to those who are located further away, such as for the Palestinian struggle.

Thousands took part in the Peaceful Action of the Indonesian People's Alliance to Defend Palestine in the Monas Area, Jakarta, Sunday (5/11/2023). - (Republika/Edwin Dwi Putranto)

MUI also recommended that Muslims be encouraged to support the Palestinian struggle, such as raising humanitarian funds and struggles, praying for victory, reciting the qunut nazilah, praying for martyrs, and performing janazah prayers for deceased Palestinian Muslims.

Furthermore, MUI also recommended the government to take decisive steps to help the Palestinian struggle. For example, he said, through the path of diplomacy at the United Nations to stop the war and sanctions on Israel, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the consolidation of OIC countries to pressure Israel to stop its aggression. “Recommending that Muslims are urged to avoid as much as possible the transaction and use of products affiliated with Israel as well as those that support colonization and Zionism,” Kiai Niam said.

The MUI fatwa comes into force from the date set, which is November 8, 2023, with the stipulation that if at a later date it turns out that there is an error, it will be corrected and refined as appropriate. So that every Muslim and those in need can know about it, and call on all parties to disseminate this fatwa.

Boycott Unilever

One of the brands that has a lot of consumers in Indonesia is Unilever. The company provides a variety of household products with various brands familiar to Indonesian families, from Lifebuoy soap, Bango Ketchup, Ice Cream Walls, Paddle Pop, Clear, Sunsilk, to Zwitsal.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is a Palestinian-led freedom, justice, and equality movement. BDS calls for boycotts of Israeli and international companies involved in violations of Palestinian rights. One is a multinational company that provides household products, including food and drink, such as Unilever.

Unilever is on a boycott list spread across various social media platforms, including in Indonesia. The public has publicly called for a boycott of Unilever products because it is perceived as being inclined to support Israel and indirectly participated in the attacks in Gaza during this time.

As a result of the BDS boycott, Unilever shares briefly fell at $46.26 in late October, but then rallied to close at $47.67 at the end of Thursday's trading session. However, when compared to previous months, Unilever shares have tended to continue to decline since the middle of the year.

If reiterated, Unilever's support for Israel was evident when one of Unilever's Ben & Jerry's subsidiaries decided in 2021 to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, on ethical grounds. However, it turned out that the decision angered Israelis greatly and considered Unilever pro Palestinian, eventually Unilever CEO Alan Jope made a statement that the company remained fully committed to its business in Israel and invested about 306 million US dollars in the country in the last decade.

Alan even said that Ben & Jerry's decision was an independent decision made by the ice cream brand's board of directors, which has greater autonomy than other subsidiaries. It is known that Ben & Jerry's has been operating in Israel since 1987. Unilever switched distribution of Ben & Jerry's ice cream from American Quality Products (AQP), its official distributor in Israel, to a local distributor selling Ben & Jerry's ice cream with Hebrew and Arabic brands.

Boikot produk Israel dan pro-Israel - (DBS)

Unilever's decision sparked a new controversy. Some claim that Ben & Jerry's joined the BDS movement, which aims to disenfranchise Israel as a state and has roots in antisemitism. In response, Unilever expressly rejects any form of discrimination or intolerance in its official statement. According to Unilever's official statement, antisemitism has no place in any society. “We have never expressed any support for the Sanctioned Divestment Boycott (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position,” they continued.

Earlier, in 2020, Unilever created a huge controversy by declaring itself committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ movement. Unilever is also opening up business opportunities for LGBTQ+ as part of a global coalition. In addition, Unilever asked Stonewall, the LGBT charity, to audit its policies and benchmarks for how Unilever is proceeding with this action.

“We are committed to making our LGBTQ+ colleagues proud because we are with them. That's why we took action by signing the Declaration of Amsterdam to ensure everyone has inclusive access to the workplace,” Unilever said in June 2020,” Unilever wrote.

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