Are Covid vaccines halal? Malaysia tries to find middle ground

Are Covid vaccines halal? Malaysia tries to find middl

Yantoultra Ngui & Hadi Azmi/Bloomberg
December 05, 2020 00:05 am +08



(Dec 4): Malaysia’s latest challenge from the coronavirus pandemic is to allay concern among local Muslims about vaccine shots which could contain substances forbidden by Islam.

The Special Muzakarah Committee of the National Council for Malaysian Islamic Affairs met Thursday to discuss the use of the vaccine. The outcome is expected to be known next week, after it is presented to the King for consent, state news agency Bernama reported on Friday, citing Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Muslim religious authorities have previously exempted vaccines from the stringent halal labeling in cases when no alternative is available. Still, concerns about the shots containing items banned under Islamic law, such as porcine DNA, continue to linger in Muslim-majority nations including Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s virus hotspot.

“Let’s not complicate the situation by taking a narrow jurisprudence opinion for the Muslim community,” Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, a mufti, or religious head, for the state of Perlis, said in a Facebook post after attending the Muzakarah Committee meeting. “If the jurisprudence is for the nation and the general public, it needs to be positioned toward making things easy.”

‘Best Choice’

Malaysia last week signed a deal with Pfizer Inc to obtain its Covid-19 vaccine that will cover 6.4 million people or 20% of its population, starting early next year. The country is also on the priority list to receive a vaccine from China, which has been the subject of controversy among Muslims who doubt its halal status. The community makes up 61% of Malaysia’s population.

Asri said vaccines made from halal ingredients would be the “best and primary choice”. Even vaccines produced by treating and transforming forbidden substances into clean compounds are permissible, he said.

A growing cluster of infections that emerged in late September forced a partial lockdown across several states, just as Malaysia’s US$365 billion economy showed signs of recovering. New daily cases hit a record high of 2,188 on Nov 24, of which more than half came from a cluster linked to the worker dormitories of Top Glove Corp, the world’s top maker of surgical gloves.

New cases have stayed above the 1,100 mark on most days since, data from the health ministry show.